I have been arguing in these recent chapters (IV. to VII.) that the critical consideration of 'practical experience' leads to the same conclusion as our earlier investigation of 'theoretical experience,' viz. the necessity of recognising the' supra-rational' (or at the very least the 'non-intelligible') character of ultimate reality. Important evidence of the truth of this metaphysical doctrine is, I believe, derivable from 'religious experience' also. This final chapter will be occupied with the endeavour to show how this is so.
It will prevent misunderstanding, however, if I make it clear at once that I do not claim for the argument from religion the same formal type of cogency as in the previous instances. In the case of freedom, the argument claimed, so far as valid, to establish the Supra-rational Reality with apodeictic certainty. For (so the argument ran) freedom implies such a Reality, and freedom is an indubitable fact. But while I shall try to show that the religious consciousness, like freedom, implies the Supra-rational Reality, I am unable to show that the religious consciousness is a foundational and irremovable aspect of experience, and that what in its essence it affirms must therefore be taken as 'fact.' My conclusion here must accordingly remain at the level of the hypothetical. I say no more than that if you admit the validity of the religious consciousness, you must go on to admit that Reality is Supra-rational.
This is one respect, then, in which our claims in the present chapter must be qualified. But there is a further respect also. Even those who are prepared to accord to the religious consciousness the same autonomy that is commonly claimed for the moral may disagree as to the essential marks by which the religious consciousness is to be known. It is fair, I think, to assume general consent to the proposition that the distinguishing mark of the 'moral' consciousness is the 'ought.' But it is difficult to secure universal agreement as to almost any specific characteristic of the 'religious' consciousness. Let it be frankly stated, then, that my argument here makes no pretensions to be a formal proof of the necessity of the Supra-rational Absolute save to those who, first of all, believe in the autonomy of religious experience - its irresolubility into anything other than itself - and who, secondly, agree that any genuine religious experience must include at least the two features from which my argument will start. Those who (perhaps the larger number) neither accept nor reject, but maintain a suspended judgment upon these matters, may still regard the present chapter as offering, so far as its reasoning is valid, some reinforcement of the results arrived at in the body of the book.
In saying so much, I may have inadvertently prepared the reader to expect a somewhat idiosyncratic reading of the nature of the religious consciousness. Such, however, is very far from being the case. On the contrary, the two features of the religious consciousness from which as data my whole argument proceeds are recognised as integral to religion by, I should say, the vast majority of theologians and philosophers of religion, as well as by ordinary religious thought. Let us note briefly what they are.