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The Everyman reprint of Inquiries into Human Faculty omitted the
following two sections and abbreviated the third.
The changed meaning of the word Enthusiasm is an example of the
change of belief in modern times. Its ancient meaning was its literal one,
'God-in-us,' its modern meaning is 'ardent zeal.' I notice that its definition
in a recent dictionary is 'a belief or conceit of private revelation; the vain
confidence or opinion of a person that he has special divine
communications from the Supreme Being, or familiar intercourse with
him.' On the other hand, the belief of devout persons that they really
commune in their hearts with God, that he put holy ideas and affections
into their minds, and inspires them with good resolves, is by no means in
their opinion a vain conceit or confidence. To a large number of the ablest
class of mankind the idea of an indwelling divine Spirit is so habitual and
vivid as to be an axiomatic truth to them. If their views are correct that the
germs of a faculty of communing with an unseen world exists in Man, and
much more abundantly in some persons than in others, then, considering
that this devout persuasion runs in families, as I have fully shown in
Hereditary Genius, it would follow that those races should be encouraged
that are characterized by spiritual-mindedness, and who would be far
more worthy occupants of the earth than the generality of ourselves.
It has been to me a real and almost life-long subject of thought,
whether or no and to what degree the strong subjective views of the pious
are trustworthy. It has been the motive of many of the inquiries in this
book, for it seems to me a cardinal one in any question of the
improvement of race. Should we keep it before us as an object of
endeavour, that future generations may be generally endowed with
faculties such as will enable them really to hold as free communion with a
Deity as the more spiritually-minded of our race profess to enjoy at the
present time? Or is the opinion held by the pious as to the existence of
those faculties no more than a vain conceit and confidence, as the
dictionary definition just quoted would have it to be?
There is no subject more worthy of reverent but thorough investigation
than the objective evidence for or against the existence of inspiration from Previous page Top Next page