So much then for the central theme of the present chapter. I have tried to show that the metaphysic expounded throughout the book may rightfully claim such authority as attaches to religious experience, since such experience involves postulates which can enjoy philosophic sanction only on the basis of Supra-rationalism. If the particular form of Supra-rationalism need not be identical with that here set forth, the cardinal tenets at least must closely approximate. I want now, in a few concluding pages, to call attention to some of the implications and consequences of the conclusions we have reached. It seems to me of importance to do so. For it must be remembered that the presuppositions with which we set out as to certain essential marks of the religious consciousness, although offered as hypothetical, are nevertheless hypotheses which receive very widespread acknowledgment in contemporary religious thought. Accordingly, if our reasoning from these presuppositions has been valid, the conclusion at which we have arrived must be regarded as something more significant than the mere termination of a dialectical exercise. On the contrary, it can claim to be the intellectual formulation of that which we essentially mean in religious experience. It is worth while, therefore, to inquire into the relation of our doctrine to certain much-discussed aspects of religious life and thought.

The first of the implications which I wish to draw out is with respect to credal dogma, and theology in general. In so far as the view to which we have been led can be stated in the form of a creed, the following may be said to express its essence - 'I believe in an Infinite God, who is Perfect with a Perfection that transcends human conception, and with whom I enter into such union as befits a finite being by wholehearted devotion to my ideal of good.' These words express what we have found to be implied in the religious consciousness, and they express it in a way which, if our metaphysics is true, is not subversive of sound philosophic doctrine. But what I want to insist upon here is that these words, bare as they are, are not a mere part of the true creed, later to be elaborated into a whole series of theological 'articles.' The term 'creed' implies, I think, the claim to literal and absolute acceptance with respect to the articles therein. If this is so, then the words we have set out above express substantially the whole of our creed. The theology which evolves a collection of 'articles' is engaged in the attempt to render into conceptual terms, through the application of principles derived from spatio-temporal experience, the nature of the Divine Being and his relationship to man: and this, unless we have been wholly wrong, is the veriest vanity of vanities. Theology's aim - the knowledge of God - is in fatal conflict with its method - the play of the intelligence. That theology may construct doctrines which are of immense 'symbolic' value, and which prove themselves genuinely efficacious in stimulating the attitude of soul characteristic of religion, is not to be doubted. But 'symbolic representation' is one thing; a 'creed' is another. The dogmas of the Church are not taken as symbols by the laity, they are not taught as such by the clergy, and they are emphatically not believed to be such at the time of incorporation into the various creeds.

The practice of 'grading' religions according to the 'enlightenment' of their creeds, where this means according to the degree of 'truth' with which the nature of God is set forth in the several articles, is indeed radically vicious. So far as this aspect is concerned, all creeds are equally false. When we survey the panorama of religions from the point of view which we have here reached, it is much nearer the truth to say - as has often been surmised - that the great historical religions 'differ only in opinion.' In that which is for us the central and irrefragable truth of religion, its mystical doctrine, the great religions are substantially at one. The rationalisations of the too ambitious intellect may often obscure, but never wholly extinguish it, and we can detect its influence even where the letter of the official 'articles' would seem to forbid it utterly. What of that strange 'meeting of extremes' which is exhibited by the fundamental identity in the utterances of mystics nurtured under the most diverse religious auspices? These 'God-intoxicated' beings, who are acclaimed (later, if not sooner) even by their own communities as the bearers of the purest and loftiest religious experience, are nearer to one another, it has often been remarked, than they are to orthodox adherents of their own order. How is this growing approximation in what are admittedly the higher reaches of separate religions to be explained, if not by the recognition that religions, qua religion, are fundamentally one? It is not religion that divides 'religions.' It is the diversity of cosmological, ethical, and other ideas, which form the background of any historic interpretation of religious experience into conceptual terms - a body of beliefs, in short, which is intrinsically irrelevant to religion.

It is a familiar maxim among religious writers, and one of which they feel it necessary constantly to remind the academic philosopher of religion, that we must go to the concrete religious consciousness in order to know what religion means. Within limits, of course, the maxim is sound enough. We shall not find what religion is if we omit to do so. But, on the other hand, we may very well not find what religion is if we do go. For the concrete religious consciousness in its historical actuality is constituted not only by that which is constant and essential in religion, but also by a whole host of elements, drawn from credal and other sources, which are in a high degree variable and accidental. And nothing is commoner than the confounding of the accident with the essence. How often do we hear the appeal made to the 'actual facts' of the religious consciousness as substantiating this, that, or the other belief, when it is perfectly clear to the independent investigator that the belief in question is begotten upon religious experience by the intellect and the imagination working within a definitive cultural context - is, in other words, not part of the essence of, but merely accidental to, religion. There is a feeling, which is all but universal, that the deliverances of the religious consciousness are deserving of the highest respect. But if we are to admit this, it is fundamental that we should distinguish what it is that religion says, from what it is that the intellect says by way of conceptual interpretation. It is the latter that is the source of so-called 'religious' strife. It seems odd that those who very properly deprecate the dissipation of the Christian fellowship into a multitude of mutually warring sects, on the ground that in the real 'substance' of Christianity they are all at one, should seldom suspect that perhaps the same is true {mutatis mutandis) of the division of 'religion' into 'religions'.

What has been said above may convey the impression that I am unprepared to recognise any 'higher and lower' with respect to credal doctrine or, more generally, with respect to that body of belief which differentiates one historical religion from another. This, however, is not my view. I do accept a criterion for grading the value of creeds, only it is not the criterion of 'enlightenment' referred to on p. 313. The criterion has already been hinted at in an earlier remark. It is plainly the case that some creeds far excel others in their capacity for producing the 'religious' state of soul in those who meditate their meaning. They are, that is, peculiarly efficacious as 'media' for the suggestion of the mystical doctrine which I have tried to show to be the central thing in religion. This may happen through their very incoherences - which are, very probably, symptomatic of a resolute determination to be true to all sides of religious experience, no matter what paradoxes the intellectual interpretation is going to present. Now creeds which are redolent of this mystical significance are naturally to be taken (if the argument of this chapter has been sound) as the intellectual expression of an unusually pure and vivid religious experience. Religious experience, it seems fair to say, has been powerful enough to remain the dominant controlling influence in their formulation. The grading of creeds in terms of their strictly religious value, therefore, is, I think, a quite valid procedure, if we adopt the criterion here suggested - capacity to act as media for the suggestion of the mystical doctrine. And I cannot but think it a signal merit, rather than a demerit, of this criterion that we are no longer compelled to look for the 'higher' religions among those which are in the van of what is called 'civilisation.' A religion may be 'higher' now in spite of much crudity in intellectual formulae, if only the religious experience which is its foundation be pure and vital. This at least seems a more appropriate test of a religion's religious status than the intellectual elaboration of its systematic theology can be.