There will be one standard in one community, and another in another, all depending upon education and social environment; but in each case the subjective mind will follow the suggestions imparted to it by objective education. If the standard is high in any individual case, the sentiment will gradually become instinctive, so that the subjective impulses and emotions will play an important part. If the standard is low, the instinctive emotions will only be conspicuous for their absence.
Man stands in his relation to the principles of right and wrong in just the same position that he occupies in his relation to the laws of electricity or any other natural law. He is struggling to ascertain the laws in each case for the purpose of placing himself in harmony with them. His knowledge is of slow growth, but each century finds the general standard of right and wrong higher than it was the century before. If the soul possessed, in the normal condition of man, an instinctive knowledge of those laws, he would not have to await the slow process of evolution to develop them.
History records the name of but one man in whom the eternal principles of right and wrong were instinctive. That man was Jesus Christ. He perceived those laws, as he perceived all spiritual laws, while yet in the flesh. We may profit by his example and his precepts, but otherwise we must work out our own salvation, knowing that, when the soul reaches its final home, it will be in possession of the eternal standard by which to measure the guilt or innocence of every deed done in the body.
The only remaining psychic phenomena which I propose to discuss are those connected with that emotion of the human soul which finds its expression in the worship of the Supreme Being. This feeling is so widespread that no system of philosophy is complete that does not take it into account. Like every other emotion, it has its normal mode of expression, and its abnormal manifestations. The difference between the two modes of expression is so great that their identity of origin has been, to a great extent, lost sight of.
The abnormal manifestation of this emotion now occurs principally among the uncultivated classes of religious worshippers, and the feeling has been somewhat contemptuously designated as "emotional religion." It is conspicuous in the revival meetings of certain religious sects, where in former years its manifestations were so violent and unseemly that it was looked upon as reprehensible; but these exhibitions have been, of late years, generally repressed, except among the lower orders of the people. Scientists have tried to account for it on the ground that it is the result of mesmeric power consciously or unconsciously exerted by the preachers over their congregations, resulting in an ecstatic emotion wholly abnormal and entirely unconnected with true religion. The fact that it sometimes results in a cataleptic condition, and sometimes in a trance undistinguishable from that produced by hypnotic processes, lent color to the theory, and has gradually brought the educated classes to regard the feeling of religious emotion with distrust.
The result is that what used to be known as "vital religion" is gradually becoming a thing of the past, and is giving place to a cold, self-contained, unemotional sentiment, which is as unlike true religious worship as the other, and as abnormal.
It is true that the abnormal manifestations of the emotion are governed by the same laws, and are produced by the same causes, as other subjective phenomena. Suggestion plays its part in these as in other things pertaining to the attributes of the soul; and in these, as in all others, a wrong, extravagant, or misdirected suggestion produces abnormal results. But this does not argue that the emotion is abnormal. There is no emotion of the human soul that has not its abnormal manifestations when not directed and controlled by reason. The common experience of every-day life demonstrates this proposition. One of the most sacred and praiseworthy of all the human emotions is that of love between the sexes. But the fact that our jails are filled with those who have indulged in its abnormal manifestations does not argue that the institution of marriage is abnormal.
The sentiment of worship is as widespread as the sentiment of love; and that very fact shows that it must be taken into account in the diagnosis of the human entity, if we would arrive at correct conclusions. That this sentiment is universal, and is repressed only by an effort of will, no one will deny. It is its abnormal manifestations merely that are to be guarded against. Like every other emotion of the soul, its normal indulgence is in the highest degree healthful and exalting. The normal expression of the emotion of earthly love brings us into harmonious relations with our fellow-beings. The normal expression of the emotion of worship brings the soul into harmonious relations with its Creator. Every form and act of worship is an expression of this emotion. It is experienced by all races of the human family, from the fetich worshipper to the Christian. Each stands in awe and reverence before some superior power, external to himself, and capable of controlling his destiny. In proportion to his intelligence will his conceptions of that power be exalted; and in proportion to the exaltation of his conceptions will be the intensity of his emotions of awe, reverence, love, worship.
The conclusions which necessarily follow are of the most important character. The first and most important - for it includes all the rest - is that the fact of the existence of the emotion of worship is demonstrative of the existence of a Supreme Being.
And right here I wish to make an important distinction. The standard theological argument in favor of the immortality of the soul is based upon the following syllogism:
1. There is a universal desire for immortality.
2. The mind of man cannot conceive an object of desire the means for the attainment of which are not somewhere in existence.
Conclusion: Man is necessarily immortal.