Philosophical Aspects of Religious Experience -- By: Gabriel Campbell

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 070:278 (Apr 1913)
Article: Philosophical Aspects of Religious Experience
Author: Gabriel Campbell


Philosophical Aspects of Religious Experience1

Gabriel Campbell, S.T.D.

For several centuries the question “What is experience?” “has remained under discussion — an open question. Of course there has been progress in the determining of the import. Kant sought to differentiate experience (Erfahrung), science, from reason (Venunft), philosophy. But, after all, Kant was obliged to recognize a supersensuous element in what was experienced. In his endeavor to deliver religion from what was merely captious and fanciful, he has left us perhaps the ablest work on this subject. But under our modern criticism his “Religion within the Limits of Pure Reason” requires revision.

As much as ever, perhaps more than ever, religion tends to run afield. The multiplicity of extravagant differentiations was never before so great. Never before, however, was the wisdom of the wise so ably devoted to the solving of these highest problems. As never before, religion has become rationalized, and is becoming the established possession of the ablest minds. Of course religion has always been the possession of able minds.

Two thousand years ago the Athenians were the foremost

thinkers of the world. But Paul,, speaking on Mars’ Hill, called attention to the fact that they were worshipers, “very greatly given to worship.” They even had an altar to the unknown God. It is as true to-day that not only common minds, but the highest intellects, require the supernal — not merely what is in the region of scientific discovery, but beyond. We simply come to a racial problem, What does the best critical knowledge supply? What can our ablest intellection validate?

The Existence of God.

Let us, then, briefly summarize a few of the essentials to be established. And first, as to an object of worship, What can we establish concerning the existence of the one Divine Being? Some still claim that he is unknown; nay, even “unknowable.” It may be perfectly true that Science by her finite measuring cannot grasp the infinite. But while the infinite remains uncomprehended, scientifically unknowable, it is still no less reality. Granted a reality is unlimited, it is not the less valid; nay, all the more valid. Space is all the more decidedly real because unmeasured, because unmeasurable. Something is everywhere. Here omnipresence asserts itself. If it is impossible to recognize a limit to space; so, as well, is it impossible to recognize more than one omnipresence.

Furthermore, as to the attributes of the one supreme divine reality, minds exist. They must have a cause. The cause, of cour...

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