1. Direct Means

IT may serve to make the essential nature of the numinous consciousness clearer if we call to mind the manner in which it expresses itself outwardly, and how it spreads and is trans mitted from mind to mind. There is, of course, no trans mission of it in the proper sense of the word ; it cannot be taught , it must be awakened from the spirit. And this could not justly be asserted, as it often is, of religion as a whole and in general, for in religion there is very much that can be taught that is, handed down in concepts and passed on in school instruction. What is incapable of being sc handed down is this numinous basis and background to religion, which can only be induced, incited, and aroused. This is least of all possible by mere verbal phrase or external symbol ; rather we must have recourse to the way all other moods and feelings are transmitted, to a penetrative imagina tive sympathy with what passes in the other person s mind. More of the experience lives in reverent attitude and gesture, in tone and voice and demeanour, expressing its momentousness, and in the solemn devotional assembly of a congregation at prayer, than in all the phrases and negative nomenclature which we have found to designate it. Indeed, these never give a positive suggestion of the object to which the religious consciousness refers ; they are only of assistance in so far as they profess to indicate an object, which they at the same time contrast with another, at once distinct from and inferior to it, e. g. the invisible , the eternal (non temporal), the supernatural , the transcendent . Or they



are simply ideograms for the unique content of feeling, ideograms to understand which a man must already have had the experience himself. Far the best means are actual holy situations or their representation in description. If a man does not ft el what the numinous is, when he reads the sixth chapter of Isaiah, then no preaching, singing, telling , in Luther s phrase, can avail him. Little of it can usually be noticed in theory and dogma, or even in exhortation, unless it is actually heard. Indeed no element in religion needs so much as this the * viva vox .transmission by living fellowship and the inspiration of personal contact. 11   SUBO says of the transmission of the mystical experience : One thing there may be known ; unlike as it is, when a man heareth himself a dulcet instrument of strings sweetly sounding, compared to whoso but heareth tell thereof, even BO are the words which are received in the purity of grace and flow forth out of a living heart by a living mouth unlike to those name words if they are beheld upon the dead parchment. . . . For there they grow cold, I know not how, and wither away like roses that have been plucked. For the lovely melody that above all toucheth the heart is then quenched to silence ; and in the waste places of the withered heart are they then received.

But the mere word, even when it comes as a living voice is powerless without the Spirit in the heart of the hearer to move him to apprehension. And this Spirit, this inborn capacity to receive and understand, is the essential thing. If that is there, very often only a very small incitement, a very remote stimulus, is needed to arouse the numinous conscious ness. It is indeed astonishing to see how small a stimulus Kiifliccs and that too coming sometimes only in clumsy and bewildered guise to raise the Spirit of itself to the strongest pitch of the most definitely religious excitement. But where the wind of the Spirit blows, there the mere rational terms themselves are indued with power to arouse the feeling of the non-rational , and become adequate to tune the mood at once to the right tone. Here schematization starts at once and needs no prompting. He who in the Spirit reads the written word lives in the numinous, though he may have neither notion of it nor name for it, nay, though he may be unable to analyse any feeling of his own and so make explicit



to himself the nature of that numinous strand running through the religious experience.

  1. Indirect Means

For the rest, the methods by which the numinous feeling is presented and evoked are indirect ; i. e. they consist in those means by which we express kindred and similar feelings belonging to the natural sphere. We have already become acquainted with these feelings, and we shall recognize them at once if we consider what are the means of expression which religion has employed in all ages and in every land.

One of the most primitive of these which is later more and more felt to be inadequate, until it is finally altogether discarded as unworthy is quite naturally the fearful and horrible, and even at times the revolting and the loathsome. Inasmuch as the corresponding feelings are closely analogous to that of the tremendum , their outlets and means of expression may become indirect modes of expressing the specific numinous awe that cannot be expressed directly. And so it comes about that the horrible and dreadful character of primitive images and pictures of gods, which seems to us to-day frequently so repellent, has even yet among naive and primitive natures nay, occasionally even among ourselves the effect of arousing genuine feelings of authentic religious awe. And, vice versa, this awe operates as a supremely potent stimulus to express the element of terror in different forms of imaginative representation. The hard, stern, and somewhat grim pictures of the Madonna in ancient Byzantine art attract the worship of many Catholics more than the tender charm of the Madonnas of Raphael. This trait is most signally evident in the case of certain figures of gods in the Indian pantheon. Durga, the great Mother of Bengal, whose worship can appear steeped in an atmosphere of profoundest devotional awe, is represented in the orthodox tradition with the visage of a fiend. And this same blend ing of appalling frightfulness and most exalted holiness can perhaps be even more clearly studied in the eleventh book



of the Bhagavad-Gita, 11   See Appendix II. Nowhere can the non-mtional element of opy, , be better studied than in this chapter, one of the perfectly classical passages for the theory of Religion. in which Vishnu who is yet to his votaries the very principle of goodness displays himself to Aryuna in the true height of his divinity. Here, too, the mind has recourse for mode of expression first to the fearful and dreadful, though this is at the same time permeated with that element of the grand to which we next turn.

This mode of expression, by way of grandeur or sub limity , is found on higher levels, where it replaces mere terror and dread . We meet it in an unsurpassable form in the sixth chapter of Isaiah, where there is sublimity alike in the lofty throne and the sovereign figure of God, the skirts of His raiment * filling the temple and the solemn majesty of the attendant angels about Him. While the element of dread is gradually overborne, the connexion of the sub lime and the holy becomes firmly established as a legi timate fichematization and is carried on into the highest forms of religious consciousness a proof that there exists a hidden kinship between the numinous and the sublime which is something more than a merely accidental analogy, and to which Kant s Critique of Judgement bears distant witness.

So far we have been concerned with that element or factor of the numinous which was the first our analysis noted and which we proposed to name symbolically * the aweful (tremeiidum). We pass now to consider the means by which the second the element of the mysterious (mysterium) is expressed. Here we light upon the analogical mode of manifestation that in every religion occupies a foremost and extraordinary place, and the theory of which we are now in a position to give. I refer to miracle. Miracle is the dearest child of Faith ; if the history of religions had not already taught us the truth of Schiller s saying, we might have reached it by anticipation a priori from the element of the mysterious , as already shown. Nothing can be found in all the world of natural feelings bearing so immediate an analogy mutatis mutandis to the religious consciousness of ineffable, unutterable mystery,



the absolute other , as the incomprehensible, unwonted, enigmatic thing, in whatever place or guise it may confront us. This will be all the more true if the uncomprehended thing is something at once mighty and fearful, for then there is a twofold analogy with the numinous that is to say, an analogy not only with the mysterium aspect of it, but with the tremendum aspect, and the latter again in the two directions already suggested of fearfulness proper and sub limity. This exemplifies the general truth already considered that any form of the numinous consciousness may be stirred by means of feelings analogous to it of a natural kind, and then itself pass over into these, or, more properly, be replaced by them. And in fact this is everywhere manifest in the experience of man. Whatever has loomed upon the world of his ordinary concerns as something terrifying and baffling to the intellect ; whatever among natural occurrences or events in the human, animal, or vegetable kingdoms has set him astare in wonder and astonishment such things have ever aroused in man, and become endued with, the daemonic dread and numinous feeling, so as to become portents , prodigies , and marvels . Thus and only thus is it that the miraculous rose. And, in the reverse direction, the feeling of the numen as the mysterious worked as a potent stimulus on the naive imagination, inciting it to expect miracles, to invent them, to experience them, to recount them, just as before the felt awefulness of the numen became a stimulus to select or fashion inventively, as a means of religious expres sion, images of fear and dread. The mysterious became an untiring impulse, prompting to inexhaustible invention in folk-tale and myth, saga and legend, permeating ritual and the forms of worship, and remaining till to-day to naive minds, whether in the form of narrative or sacrament, the most powerful factor that keeps the religious consciousness alive. But here too, as in the case of the fearful and terrible, progress to a higher stage of development shows the gradual elimination of this merely external analogue to the numinous, viz. the miraculous; and so we see how, on the more enlightened levels, miracle begins to fade away ; how Christ



is at one with Mohammed and Buddha in declining the r61e of mere wonder-worker ; how Luther dismisses the out ward miracles disparagingly as jugglery or apples and nuts for children ; and finally how the supernaturalism of miracle is purged from religion as something that is only an imperfect analogue and no genuine schema of the numinous.

There are other manifestations of this tendency of the feeling of the mysterious to be attracted to objects and aspects of experience analogous to it in being uncomprehended . It finds its most unqualified expression in the spell exercised by the only half intelligible or wholly unintelligible language of devotion, and in the unquestionably real enhance ment of the awe of the worshipper which this produces. Instances of this are the ancient traditional expressions, still retained despite their obscurity, in our Bible and hym nals ; the special emotional virtue attaching to words like Hallelujah, Kyrie eleison, Selah, just because they are wholly other and convey no clear meaning ; the Latin in the service of the Mass, felt by the Catholic to be, not a necessary evil, but something especially holy; the Sanskrit in the Buddhist Mass of China and Japan ; the language of the gods in the ritual of sacrifice in Homer ; and many similar cases. Especially noticeable in this connexion are the half-revealed, half-concealed elements in the Service of the Mass, in the Greek Church liturgy, and so many others ; wo can see here one factor that justifies and warrants them. And the same is true of the remaining portions of the old Mass which recur in the Lutheran ritual. Just because their design shows but little of regularity or conceptual arrangement, they preserve in themselves far more of the spirit of worship than the proposed recastings of the service put forward by the most recent practical reformers. In these we find carefully arranged schemes worked out with the balance and coherence of an essay, but nothing unaccountable, and for that very reason suggestive ; nothing accidental, and for that very reason pregnant in meaning ; nothing that rises from the deeps below consciousness to break the rounded unity of the wonted disposition, and thereby point to a unity of a higher order

r 2



in a word, little that is really spiritual. All the cases cited, then, derive their power of suggestion from the same source ; they are all instances of the analogy to the mysterious afforded by that which is not wholly understood, unwonted and at the same time venerable through age ; and in the resemblance they present to the mysterious they arouse it in the mind by a sort of anamnesis or reminder, and at the same time constitute its outward analogical representation.

  1. Means by which the Numinous is expressed in Art

In the arts nearly everywhere the most effective means of representing the numinous is * the sublime . This is especially true of architecture, in which it would appear to have first been realized. One can hardly escape the idea that this feeling for expression must have begun to awaken far back in the remote Megalithic Age. The motive underlying the erection of those gigantic blocks of rock, hewn or unworked, single monoliths or titanic rings of stone, as at Stonehenge, may have well been originally to localize and preserve and, as it were, to store up the numen in solid presence by magic ; but the change to the motive of expression must have been from the outset far too vividly stimulated not to occur at a very early date. In fact the bare feeling for solemn and imposing magnitude and for the pomp of sublime pose and gesture is a fairly elementary one, and we cannot doubt that this stage had been reached when the mastabas, obelisks and pyramids were built in Egypt. It is indeed beyond question that the builders of these Temples, and of the Sphinx of Gizeh, which set the feeling of the sublime, and together with and through it that of the numinous, throbbing in the soul almost like a mechanical reflex, must themselves have been conscious of this effect and have in tended it.

Further, we often say of a building, or indeed of a song, a formula, a succession of gestures or musical notes, and in particular of certain manifestations of ornamental and decora tive art, symbols, and emblems, that they make a downright magical impression, and we feel we can detect the special characteristic of this magical note in ,rt with fair assurance



even under the most varying conditions and in the most diverse relationships. The art of China, Japan, and Tibet, whose specific character has been determined by Taoism and Buddhism, surpasses all others in the unusual richness and depth of such impressions of the magical , and even an in expert observer responds to them readily. The designation [^4] magical is here correct even from the historical point of view, since the origin of this language of form was properly magical representations, emblems, formularies, and contrivances. But the actual impression of magic is quite independent of this historical bond of connexion with magical practices. It occurs even when nothing is known of the latter; nay, in that case it comes out most strongly and uribrokenly. Beyond dispute art has here a means of creating a unique impression that of the magical apart from and independent of reflection. Now the magical is nothing but a suppressed and dimmed form of the numinous, a crude form of it which great art purifies and ennobles. In great art the point is reached at which we may no longer speak of the magical , but rather are confronted with the numinous itself, with all its impelling motive power, transcending reason, expressed in sweeping lines and rhythm. 11   This numinous magical character in specially noticeable in theatrangely impressive figures of the Buddha in early Chinese art ; and here too it atlects the observer independently of ideas , i.e. without his knowing anything about the speculative doctrines of Buddhism. ThuH Siien justly says of the great Buddha from the Lung-Men Caves (T ang Dynawty): In no art, perhaps, is this more fully realized than in the great landscape painting and religious painting of China in the classical period of the T ang and Sung dynasties. It has been said of this great art :

These works are to be classed with the profoundest and Bublirnest of the creations of human art. The spectator who,

Anyone who approaches this figure will realize that it has ft religious Hignificance without knowing anything about its motif. ... It matters little whether we call it a prophet or a god, because it is a complete work of ait permeated by a spiritual will, which communicates itself to the beholder . . . The religious element of such a figure is immanent; it is "a presence" or an atmosphere rather than a formulated idea. ... It cannot be dencnbed in wordH, because it lies beyond intellectual definition. (Oswald Siren, Chinese Sculpture, London, 1925, vol, i, p. 20.)



as it were, immerses himself in them feels behind these waters and clouds and mountains the mysterious breath of the primeval Tao, the pulse of innermost being. Many a mystery lies halfconcealed and half-revealed in these pictures. They contain the knowledge of the " nothingness " and the " void ", of the " Tao " of heaven and earth, which is also the Tao of the human heart. And so, despite their perpetual agitation, they seem as remotely distant and as profoundly calm as though they drew secret breath at the bottom of a sea. l

To us of the West the Gothic appears as the most numinous of all types of art. This is due in the first place to its sublimity ; but Worringer in his work Probleme der Gothik has done a real service in showing that the peculiar impressiveness of Gothic does not consist in its sublimity alone, but draws upon a strain inherited from primitive magic, of which he tries to show the historical derivation. To Worringer, then, the impression Gothic makes is one of magic ; and, what ever may be said of his historical account of the matter, it is certain that in this at least he is on the right track. Gothic does instil a spell that is more than the effect of sublimity. But magic is too low a word : the tower of the Cathedral of Ulm is emphatically not magical , it is numinous. And the difference between the numinous and the merely magical can nowhere be felt more clearly than in the splendid plate Worringer gives in his book of this marvellous work of archi tecture. But when this is said, we may still keep the word magic in use to denote the style and means of artistic expression by which the impression of the numinous comes into being.

But in neither the sublime nor the magical, effective as they are, has art more than an indirect means of representing the numinous. Of directer methods our Western art has only two, and they are in a noteworthy way negative, viz. darkness and silence. The darkness must be such as is enhanced and made all the more perceptible by contrast with some last

1 From an article by Otto Fischer on Chinese landscape painting in Das KunstMatt, Jan. 1920.



vestige of brightness, which it is, as it were, on the point of extinguishing ; hence the mystical effect begins with semidarkness. Its impression is rendered complete if the factor of the sublime comes to unite with and supplement it. The semi-darkness that glimmers in vaulted halls, or beneath the branches of a lofty forest glade, strangely quickened and stirred by the mysterious play of half-lights, has always spoken eloquently to the soul, and the builders of temples, mosques, and churches have made full use of it.

SUeiice is what corresponds to this in the language of musical sounds. Yahweh is in His holy Temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him. (Habakkuk, ii. 20.) Neither we nor (probably) the prophet any longer bear in mind that this keeping silence (as ^v^rj^lv in Greek), if regarded from the historical, genetic standpoint, springs from the fear of using words of evil omen, which therefore prefers to be altogether speechless. It is the same with Tersteegen in his God is present, let all in us be silent . With prophet and psalmist and poet we feel the necessity of silence from another and quite independent motive. It is a spontaneous reaction to the feeling of the actual numen praesens . Once again, what is found coming upon the scene at a higher level of evolution cannot be explained by merely interpolating links in a historico-genetic chain of development ; and the Psalmist and Terbteegen and even we ourselves are at least as interesting subjects for the analysis of the psychologist of religion as are the Primitives , with their habitual practice of (ixprjfjLia, the silence that merely avoids words of ill augury.

Besides Silence and Darkness oriental art knows a third direct means for producing a strongly numinous impression, to wit, emptiness and empty distances. Empty distance, remote vacancy, is, as it were, the sublime in the horizontal. The wide-stretching desert, the boundless uniformity of the steppe, have real sublimity, and even in us Westerners they set vibrating chords of the numinous along with the note of the sublime, according to the principle of the association of feelings. Chinese architecture, which is essentially an art in the laying out and grouping of buildings, makes a wise and



very striking use of this fact. It does not achieve the impression of solemnity by lofty vaulted halls or imposing altitudes, but nothing could well be more solemn than the silent amplitude of the enclosed spaces, courtyards, and vesti bules which it employs. The imperial tombs of the Ming emperors at Nanking and Peking are, perhaps, the strongest example of this, including, as they do, in their plan the empty distances of an entire landscape. Still more interesting is the part played by the factor of void or emptiness in Chinese painting. There it has almost become a special art to paint empty space, to make it palpable, and to develop variations upon this singular theme. Not only are there pictures upon which almost nothing is painted, not only is it an essential feature of their style to make the strongest impression with the fewest strokes and the scantiest means, but there are very many pictures especially such as are connected with con templation which impress the observer with the feeling that the void itself is depicted as a subject, is indeed the main subject of the picture. We can only understand this by recalling what was said above on the nothingness and the void of the mystics and on the enchantment and spell exercised by the negative hymns . For Void is, like Dark ness and Silence, a negation, but a negation that does away with every this and here , in order that the wholly other may become actual.

Not even music, which else can give such manifold expression to all the feelings of the mind, has any positive way to express the holy . Even the most consummate Mass-music can only give utterance to the holiest, most numinous moment in the Mass the moment of transubstantiation by sinking into stillness : no mere momentary pause, but an absolute cessation of sound long enough for us to hear the Silence itself ; and no devotional moment in the whole Mass approximates in impressiveness to this keeping silence before the Lord . It is instructive to submit Bach s Mass in B minor to the test in this matter. Its most mystical portion is the Incarnatus in the Credo, and there the effect is due to the faint, whispering, lingering sequence in the fugue structure, dying away



pianissimo. The held breath and hushed sound of the passage, its weird cadences, sinking away in lessened thirds, its pauses and syncopations, and its rise and fall in astonishing semi tones, which render so well the sense of awe-struck wonder all this serves to express the mysterium by way of intimation, rather than in forthright utterance. And by this means Ba<jh attains his aim here far better than in the Sanctus . This latter is indeed an incomparably successful expression of Him, whose is the power and the glory , an enraptured and triumphant choric hymn to perfect and absolute sovereignty. But it is very far distant from the mood of the text that accompanies the music, which is taken from Isaiah vi, and which the composer should have interpreted in accordance with that passage as a whole. No one would gather from this magnifi cent chorus that the Seraphim covered their faces with two of their wings. 11   Tlie Jewish tradition has been, however, very well aware of the import of the matter. In the splendid New Year s day Hymn of Melek Elyon the words run: All the mighty ones on high whisper low : Yahwth is King. In this point Mendelssohn shows very fine sensibility in his musical setting of Psalm ii at the words (v. 11) : Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. And here too the matter is expressed less in the music itself than in the way the music is restrained and repressed one might almost say, abashed as the Cathedral choir at Berlin so well knows how to render it. And, if a final example may be cited, the Popule meus of Thomas Luiz gets as near to the heart of the matter as any music can. In this the first chorus sings the first words of the Trisagion : Hagios, ho theos, hagios ischyros, hagios athanatos , and the second chorus sings in response the Latin rendering of the words : Sanctus deus, sanctus fortis, sanctus immortalis , each chorus thrillino- with a sort of muffled


tremor. But the Trisagion itself, sung pianissimo by singers kept out of sight far at the back, is like a whisper floating down through space, and is assuredly a consummate reproduc tion of the scene in the vision of Isaiah.



WHILE the feelings of the non-rational and numinous constitute a vital factor in every form religion may take, they are pre-eminently in evidence in Semitic religion and most of all in the religion of the Bible. Here Mystery lives and moves in all its potency. It is present in the ideas of the daemonic and angelic world, which, as a wholly other , surrounds, transcends, and permeates this world of ours ; it is potent in the Biblical eschatology and the ideal of a king dom of God contrasted with the natural order, now as being future in time, now as being eternal, but always as the down right marvellous and other ; and finally it impresses itself on the character of Yahweh and Elohim that God who is nevertheless the Heavenly Father of Jesus and as such fulfils , not loses, his character as Yahweh.

The lower stage of numinous consciousness, viz. daemonic dread, has already been long superseded by the time we reach the Prophets and Psalmists. But there are not wanting occasional echoes of it, found especially in the earlier narra tive literature. The story in Exodus iv. 24, of how Yahweh in his 0/3777 met Moses by the way and sought to kill him , still bears this daemonic character strongly, and the tale leaves us almost with the suggestion of a ghostly apparition. And from the standpoint of the more highly developed fear of God one might easily get from this and similar stories the impression that this is not yet religion at all, but a sort of pre-religious, vulgar fear of demons or the like. That would, however, be a misconception ; a c vulgar fear of demons would refer to a demon in the narrower sense of the word, in which it is a synonym for devil, fiend, or goblin, and is contrasted with the divine. But demon in this sense has



not been, any more than ghost or spectre , a point in the transition, or, if it be preferred, a link in the chain of develop ment which religious consciousness has undergone. Both demon (= fiend) and spectre are, so to speak, offshoots from the true line of progress, spurious fabrications of the fancy accompanying the numinous feeling. We must carefully distinguish from such a demon the Saifiow or daemon in the more general sense of the word, which, if it is not yet itself a god , is still less an anti-god, but must be termed a l pre-god , the numen at a lower stage, in which it is still trammelled and suppressed, but out of which the god gradually grows to more and more lofty manifestations. This is the phase whose after-effects can be detected in these ancient stories.

It will be worth while to consider this matter further. Two things may help to an understanding of the real relation with which we are here concerned. First, we may refer back to what was said on an earlier page upon the capacity of the dreadful and terrible in general to attract and arouse, and also to express, the true numinous consciousness or emotion. In the second place, we may refer to the parallel case of music. A man with a pronounced musical faculty, so long as he is a mere raw tyro, may be enraptured by the sound of the bagpipes or the hurdy-gurdy, though perhaps both become intolerable to him when his musical education has been com pleted. But, if he then recalls the qualitative character of his earlier musical experience and compares it with his present one, he will have to admit that, in both, one and the same side of his mind is functioning, and that what has taken place in the rise of his feeling for music to a more elevated form is no transition to something different in kind, but a process which we may call development or growth to maturity , but can hardly further specify. Were we to hear to-day the music of Confucius, it would probably be to us merely a succession of queer noises. Yet already Confucius speaks of the power of music on the mind in a way we moderns cannot better, and touches upon just those elements which we also must recognize in the experience of music. But the most



striking consideration in this regard is the way in which some savage tribes are endowed with a capacity for a ready appreciation of our music, which they grasp quickly, practise assiduously, and enjoy intensely, when it is brought before them. This endowment did not first enter their minds at the moment they heard the music by a heterogony , epigenesis , or other miracle ; it simply existed all the time as a natural predisposition or latent capacity. It was aroused and began to develop as soon as the proper incitement came to stimulate it, but to the end it was yet the selfsame disposi tion that had been formerly excited to such primitive and crude manifestations. This crude , primitive form of music is often almost or wholly unrecognizable as real music by our developed musical taste, although it was the manifestation of the same impulse and the same element of our psychical nature. Now it is exactly a parallel case when the God fearing man of to-day finds it hard to detect in the narrative of Exodus iv that which is akin to his own religious experience, or misjudges it altogether. All this involves a point of view which should be taken into consideration more generally with respect to the religion of primitive man , though naturally great caution should be used in applying it, seeing that very mistaken conclusions can be drawn from it and there is a real danger of confounding the lower with the higher levels of development and of making too little of the interval between them. However, it is still more dangerous to exclude this point of view altogether, as is unfortunately very com monly done. 11   In this regard Mr. Marett in particular has important and novel considerations to offer. [^3] So derblom, Das Werden des Gottesglaubens, 1916, pp. 297 ff.

Recent research has sought to discover a difference in char acter between Yahweh, the austere and stern, and Elohim, the familiar, patriarchal God, and there is something very illumi nating in the suggestion. Soderblom s supposition 2 is that the notion of Yahweh had its point of origin in earlier ani mistic ideas. I do not dispute the importance of such animistic ideas in the religious evolutionary process; in



fact, I should go even farther than Soderblom in that respect, for he would explain them as a sort of primitive philosophy , and therefore has to exclude them altogether from the domain of genuinely religious imagination. It would be perfectly compatible with my own view to hold that where ideas of an animistic character had been framed they could serve as an important link in the chain of stimulation by which true numinous consciousness is aroused (namely, in so far as they served to disengage and free the obscure feeling-element of existent being , latent in it). But what distinguishes Yahwehi from El-Shaddai-Elohim is not that the former is an anima ,! but (and the distinction may be applied to differentiate all god-types) that, whereas in Yahweh the numinous preponder ates over the familiar rational character, in Elohim the rational aspect outweighs the numinous. Outweighs is as much as we can say, for in Elohim too the numinous element is certainly present ; Elohim is, for instance, the subject of the genuinely numinous narrative of the theophany in the burning bush, with the characteristic verse (Exodus iii. 6) : And Moses hid his face ; for he was afraid to look upon God.

For the copious and diverse characteristics of the idea of God of the ancient Israelites which might be instanced here the reader is referred to works upon the history of religion. 11   They are given exhauntively in the Encyclopaedia Die Reliyion in Geschichte und Gegentcart, vol. ii, pp. 1530, 2036. The venerable religion of Moses marks the beginning of a process which from that point onward proceeds with ever increasing momentum, by which the numinous is throughout rational ized and moralized, i.e. charged with ethical import, until it becomes the holy in the fullest sense of the word. The culmination of the process is found in the Prophets and in the Gospels. And it is in this that the special nobility of the religion revealed to us by the Bible is to be found, which, when the stage represented by the deutero-Lsaiah is reached, justifies its claim to be a universal world-religion. Here is to be found its manifest superiority over, e. g., Islam, in which Allah is mere numen , and is in fact precisely Yahweh in his pre-Mosaic form and upon a larger scale. But this moralizing



and rationalizing process does not mean that the numinous itself has been overcome, but merely that its preponderance has been overcome. The numinous is at once the basis upon which and the setting within which the ethical and rational meaning is consummated.

The capital instance of the intimate mutual interpenetration of the numinous with the rational and moral is Isaiah. The note struck in the vision of his call is the keynote of his entire prophecy. And nothing is in this regard more signifi cant than the fact that it is in Isaiah that the expression the Holy One of Israel first becomes established as the expression, par excellence, for the deity, prevailing over all others by its mysterious potency. This remains so in the writings of the deutero-Isaiah , who follows the tradition of the earlier Isaiah. Assuredly in deutero-Isaiah, if in any writer, we have to do with a God whose attributes are clear to conceptual thought : omnipotence, goodness, wisdom, truth ; and yet all the time these are attributes of the Holy One , whose strange name deutero-Isaiah too repeats no less than fifteen times and always in passages where it has a special impressiveness.

Related expressions akin to the holiness of Yahweh are His fury , His jealousy , His wrath , the consuming fire , and the like. The import of them all is not only the all-requiting righteousness of God, not even merely His susceptibility to strong and living emotions, but all this ever enclosed in and permeated with the awefulness and the majesty , the mystery and the augustness , of His non-rational divine nature.

And this holds good, also, of the expression the living God . God s livingness is perceptibly akin to His jealousy and is manifested in and through this, as in His other passions generally. 11   Cf. Deut. v. 26 : For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? Cf. also Josh. iii. 10 ; 1 Sam. xvii. 26, 36 ; 2 Kings xix. 4; Isa. xxxvii. 4, 17 ; Jer. x. 10 : He is the living God : ... at His wrath the earth shall tremble and the nations shall not be able to abide His indigna It is by His life that this God is differ



entiated from all mere World Reason , and becomes this ultimately non-rational essence, that eludes all philosophic treatment. This is the God that lives in the consciousness of all prophets and apostles of the Old and the New Dispensa tion alike. And all those who later championed against the God of philosophy the living God and the God of anger and love and the emotions have unwittingly been defending the non-rational core of the Biblical conception of God from all excessive rationalization. And so far they were right. Where they were wrong and sank into anthropomorphism was in defending, not figurative anger and emotion , but literal anger and emotion, misconceiving the numinous character of the attributes in question and holding them simply to be natural attributes, taken absolutely, instead of realizing that they can only be admitted as figurative indications of some thing essentially non-rational by means of symbols drawn from feelings that have analogy to it.

We find the power of the numinous in its phase of the mysterious to excite and intensify the imagination displayed with particular vividness in Ezekiel. Here are to be classed Ezekiel s dreams and parables and fanciful delineation of God s being and sovereign state, which are, as it were, an example by anticipation of the later more spurious sort of excitement of the religious impulse to the mysterious, leading (in accordance with analogies already expounded) to the merely strange, the extraordinary, the marvellous, and the fantastic. When such an operation of the religious conscious ness works itself out in accordance with a wrong analogy, the way is prepared for miracle and legend and the whole dream

tion ; Jer. xxiii. 36 ; 2 Mace. vii. 33 ; Matt. xxvi. 63 (the adjuration by the liriny God , the God of terror and dread); and Heb. x. 31 : It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The Old Testa ment idea of the terrible living God reaches its completion in the ideas of the avenging God , of which the most ruthless expression is in the almo.st appalling image of the treader of the wine-press, ISA. Ixiii. 3 : I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury ; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments and I will Rtain all my raiment. The dreadful image recurs in the New Testament in Rev. xix. 15 : He treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.



world of pseudo-mysticism ; and, though these are all truly enough emanations from the genuine religious experience, they are emanations broken by the opaque, dull medium through which they pass, a mere substitute for the genuine thing, and they end in a vulgar rankness of growth that overspreads the pure feeling of the mysterium as it really is and chokes its direct and forthright emotional expression.

But, if Ezekiel hardly shows the numinous moment apart from an admixture of excessive fantasy and imagination, the same is not true of the Book of Job. In the 38th chapter of Job we have the element of the mysterious displayed in rare purity and completeness, and this chapter may well rank among the most remarkable in the history of religion. Job has been reasoning with his friends against Elohim, and as far as concerns them he has been obviously in the right. They are compelled to be dumb before him. And then Elohim Himself appears to conduct His own defence in person. And He conducts it to such effect that Job avows himself to be overpowered, truly and rightly overpowered, not merely silenced by superior strength. Then he confesses : There fore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes. That is an admission of inward convincement and conviction, not of impotent collapse and submission to merely superior power. Nor is there here at all the frame of mind to which St. Paul now and then gives utterance ; e.g. Rom. ix. 20: Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus ? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour ? To interpret the passage in Job thus would be a misunderstanding of it. This chapter does not proclaim, as Paul does, the renunciation of, the realization of the impossibility of, a theodicy ; rather, it aims at putting forward a real theodicy of its own, and a better one than that of Job s friends ; a theodicy able to convict even a Job, and not only to convict him, but utterly to still every inward doubt that assailed his soul. For latent in the weird expe rience that Job underwent in the revelation of Elohim is at once an inward relaxing of his soul s anguish and an



appeasement, an appeasement which would alone and in itself perfectly suffice as the solution of the problem of the Book of Job, even without Job s rehabilitation in chapter xlii, where recovered prosperity comes as an extra payment thrown in after quittance has been already rendered. But what is this strange moment of experience that here operates at once as a vindication of God to Job and a reconciliation of Job to God? In the words put into the mouth of Elohim nearly every note is sounded which the situation may prepare one to expect a priori: the summons to Job, and the demonstration of God s overwhelming power, His sublimity and greatness, and His surpassing wisdom. This last would yield forthwith a plausible and rational solution of the whole problem, if only the argu ment were here completed with some such sentences as : My ways are higher than your ways ; in my deeds and my actions I have ends that you understand not ; viz. the testing or puri fication of the godly man, or ends that concern the whole universe as such, into which the single man must fit himself with all his sufferings. If you start from rational ideas and concepts, you absolutely thirst for such a conclusion to the dis course. But nothing of the kind follows ; nor does the chapter intend at all to suggest such teleological reflections or solutions. In the last resort it relies on something quite different from anything that can be exhaustively rendered in rational con cepts, namely, on the sheer absolute wondrousness that transcends thought, on the mysterium, presented in its pure, non-rational form. All the glorious examples from nature speak very plainly in this sense. The eagle, that dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place , whose eyes behold afar off" her prey, and whose young ones also suck up blood, and where the slain are, there is she this eagle is in truth no evidence for the ideological wisdom that prepares all cunningly and well , but is rather the creature of strangeness and marvel, in whom the wondrousness of its creator becomes apparent. And the same is true of the ostrich (xxxix. 13-18) with its inexplicable instincts. The ostrich is indeed, as here depicted, and ration ally considered, a crucial difficulty rather than an evidence of



wisdom, and it affords singularly little help if we are seeking purpose in nature: which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in the dust, and forgetteth that the foot may crush them or that the wild beast may break them. She is hardened against her young ones as though they were not hers: her labour is in vain without fear; because God hath deprived her of ivisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.

It is the same with the wild ass (verse 5) and the unicorn (verse 9). These are beasts whose complete dysteleology or negation of purposiveness is truly magnificently depicted ; but, nevertheless, with their mysterious instincts and their inexplicable behaviour, this very negation of purpose becomes a thing of baffling significance, as in the case of the wild goat (verse 1) and the hind. The wisdom of the inward parts (xxxviii. 36), and the knowledge of dayspring, winds, and clouds, with the mysterious ways in which they come and go, arise and vanish, shift and veer and re-form ; and the wonderful Pleiades aloft in heaven, with Orion and Arcturus and his sons these serve but to emphasize the same lesson. It is conjectured that the descriptions of the hippopotamus (behemoth) and crocodile (leviathan) in xl. 15 ff. are a later interpolation. This may well be the fact ; but, if so, it must be admitted that the interpolator has felt the point of the entire section extraordinarily well. He only brings to its grossest expression the thought intended by all the other examples of animals ; they gave portents only, he gives us monsters but the monstrous is just the mysterious in a gross form. Assuredly these beasts would be the most unfortunate examples that one could hit upon if searching for evidences of the purposefulness of the divine wisdom . But they, no less than all the previous examples and the whole context, tenor, and sense of the entire passage, do express in masterly fashion the downright stupendousness, the wellnigh daemonic and wholly incomprehensible character of the eternal creative power ; how, incalculable and wholly other , it mocks at all conceiving but can yet stir the mind to its depths, fascinate and overbrim the heart. What is



meant is the mysterium not as mysterious simply, but at the same time also as fascinating and august ; and here, too, these latter meanings live, not in any explicit con cepts, but in the tone, the enthusiasm, in the very rhythm of the entire exposition. And here is indeed the point of the whole passage, comprising alike the theodicy and the appeasement and calming of Job s soul. The mysterium, simply as such, would merely (as discussed above) be a part of the absolute inconceivability of the numen, and that, though it might strike Job utterly dumb, could not convict him inwardly. That of which we are conscious is rather an intrinsic value in the incomprehensible a value inexpressible, positive, and fascinating . This is incommensurable with thoughts of rational human teleology and is not assimilated to them : it remains in all its mystery. But it is as it becomes felt in consciousness that Elohim is justified and at the same time Job s soul brought to peace.

A very real parallel to this experience of Job is to be found in the work of a writer of our own day, which is not the less deeply impressive because it is found in the fictitious context of a novel. Max Eyth recounts in his story Berufs-Tragik (in the collection Hinter Pjlug und Schraubstock) the build ing of the mighty bridge over the estuary of the Ennobucht. The most profound and thorough labour of the intellect, the most assiduous and devoted professional toil, had gone to the construction of the great edifice, making it in all its signifi cance and purposefulness a marvel of human achievement. In spite of endless difficulties and gigantic obstacles, the bridge is at length finished, and stands defying wind and waves. Then there comes a raging cyclone, and building and builder are swept into the deep. Utter meaninglessness seems to triumph over richest significance, blind destiny seems to stride on its way over prostrate virtue and merit. The narrator tells how he visits the scene of the tragedy and returns again.

When we got to the end of the bridge, there was hardly

a 2



a breath of wind ; high above, the sky showed blue-green, and with an eerie brightness. Behind us, like a great open grave, lay the Ennobucht. The Lord of life and death hovered over the waters in silent majesty. We felt His presence, as one feels one s own hand. And the old man and I knelt down before the open grave and before Him.

Why did they kneel ? Why did they feel constrained to do so ? One does not kneel before a cyclone or the blind forces of nature, nor even before Omnipotence merely as such. But one does kneel before the wholly uncomprehended Mystery, revealed yet unrevealed, and one s soul is stilled by feeling the way of its working, and therein its justification.

It would be possible to cite many other traces of numinous feeling in the Old Testament. But they have already been admirably put together by one who wrote sixteen hundred years ago in the same sense as we upon the non-rational . This was Chrysostom. We shall be considering him later on and will not anticipate further in this place. 1

1 See Appendix I.


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |