-What is the character and general structures
of the universe in which we live? Is there a permanent element in
the constitution of this universe? How are we related to it? What
place do we occupy in it, and what is the kind of conduct that benefits
the place we occupy? These questions are common to religion, philosophy,
and higher poetry.
The Nature of both
But the kind of knowledge that poetic inspiration
brings is essentially individual in its character; it is figurative,
vague, and indefinite. Religion, in its more advanced forms, rises
higher than poetry. It moves from individual to society. In its
attitude towards the ultimate reality it is opposed to the limitations
of man; it enlarges his claims and holds out the prospect of nothing
less than a direct vision of Reality. Is it then possible to apply
the purely rational method of philosophy to religion?
The philosophical spirit
The spirit of philosophy is one of free inquiry.
It suspects all authority. Its function is to trace the uncritical
assumptions of human thought to their hiding places, and in this
pursuit it may finally end in denial or a frank admission of the
incapacity of pure reason to reach the ultimate reality.
Religion: The free bird
The essence of religion, on the other hand, is faith,
and faith, like the bird, sees its 'trackless way' unattended by
intellect which, in the great mystic poet of Islam, ' only way lays
the living heart of man and robs it of the invisible lies within.'
Yet it cannot be denied that faith is mere feeling.
It has something like a cognitive content, and the existence of
rival parties- scholastics and mystics- in the history shows that
idea is a vital element in religion. Apart from this, religion on
its doctrinal side, as defined by professor Whitehead, is ' a system
of general truths which have the effect of transforming character
when they are sincerely held and vividly apprehended'. Now, since
the transformation and guidance of man's inner and outer life is
the essential aim of religion, it is obvious that the general truths
that it embodies must not remain unsettled.
Religion : more ambitious than
Indeed, in view of its function, religion stands
in greater need of a rational foundation of its ultimate principles
than even the dogmas of science. Science may ignore a rational metaphysics;
indeed, indeed it has ignored it so far. Religion can hardly afford
to ignore the search for a reconciliation of the oppositions of
experience and justification of the environment in which humanity
fund itself. That is why Professor Whitehead has acutely remarked
that ' the ages of faith are the ages of rationalism'.
But to rationalize faith is not to admit the superiority
of philosophy over religion. Philosophy, no doubt, has jurisdiction
to judge religion, but what is to be judged is such a nature that
it will not submit to the jurisdiction of philosophy except on its
on terms. While sitting in judgment of religion, philosophy cannot
give religion an inferior place among its data. Religion is not
a departmental affair; it is neither mere thought, nor mere feeling;
it is an expression of the whole man.
The need to recognize each other
Thus, in the evaluation of religion, philosophy must
recognize the central position of religion and has no other alternative
but to admit it as something focal in the process of reflective
synthesis. Nor is there any reason to suppose that thought and intuition
are essentially opposed to each other. They spring up from the same
root and complement each other.
Religion and Philosophy: Compare
The one grasp Reality piecemeal, the other grasps
it in its wholeness. The one fixes its gaze on the
eternal the other on the temporal aspect of Reality. The
one is present enjoyment of the whole of Reality; the other aims
at traversing the whole by slowly specifying and closing up the
various regions of the whole for exclusive observation. Both are
in need of each other for mutual rejuvenation. Both seek vision
of the same reality, which reveals itself to them in accordance
to the function of life. In fact, intuition, as Bergson rightly
says, is only a higher kind of intellect.