The New Religion


I too, following many and follow’d by many, inaugurate a religion.
The people must begin to learn that religion is something far, far different from what they supposed,
The whole scene shifts—the relative positions change,
The whole idea of God, as hitherto, for reasons, presented in the religions of the world, for the thousands of past years, disappears;
The divine, common, average man advances—ascends to place.
Through space and time fused in a chant, and the flowing, eternal identity,
To nature, encompassing these, encompassing God—to the joyous, electric All—to the sense of death,
The entrance of man I sing.

I will break up this dementia that man is the servant of God, or of many gods,
Man is the master and overseer of all religions—not their slave,
I am the master and overseer of all religions—and you shall be.
I know well enough the life is in my own soul, not in the traditions, the phantoms—
What are they to the eternal traveler through them all, the ineffable soul of man, before whom all religions, the divinest idols, the gods, these of ours with the rest, sink into the corners?

Out of the murk of heaviest clouds,
Out of the ruin’d cathedrals, tombs of priests,
Out of this mass of folly, wickedness, and injustice, and its influence, a man is required to lift himself, as the very first step toward his
being perfect.
He must have a very high faculty of independence,
The mere authority of law, custom, or precedent, must be nothing, absolutely nothing, absolutely nothing at all, with him.

Priests! Until your Bibles and prayer books are able to walk like me,
And until your brick and mortar can procreate as I
can,
The holy vessels, or the bits of the eucharist, procreate as effectually as the young silversmiths or bakers,
(Procreation is just as divine as spirituality,)
I beg you, sirs, do not presume to put them above me.

There can be henceforth no system of religion;
Do you suppose religion consists in one particular form or creed—the Christian or any other?
No, it is the whole universal heart of man.
The old cautious hucksters, the mumbling and screaming priests, soon, soon deserted,
A superior breed shall take their place,
Prophets en masse shall take their place,
(Prophet means one whose mind bubbles up and pours forth as a fountain, from inner, divine spontaneities, to reveal and outpour the God-like suggestions pressing for birth in the soul.)

Every man shall be his own priest,
The churches built under their umbrage shall be the churches of men and women.
If I build a church it shall be a church to men and women,
If I become a devotee it shall be to men and women,
If I write hymns they shall be all to men and women.
Not traditions, not the outer authorities are the judges,
They are the judges of outer authorities and of all 
traditions,
They have it forever in themselves to corroborate far and near without one exception.

Religion must be consigned henceforth to democracy en masse,
Comprehensive enough to include all the doctrines and sects,
And to give them all places and chances, each after its own kind;
Average spiritual manhood, purpose of all—
All the religions, old and new, are there.
The most democratic of the religionists incessantly labor to kindle, nourish, educate, bring forward, and strengthen the religion inside of man’s very own nature.

He ask’d me if I enjoy’d religion. I said, Perhaps not, my dear, in the way you mean, and yet, maybe it is the same thing— 
For all religions, divine as they are, are but temporary journeys subordinate to the eternal soul of the woman, the man, the supreme decider of all,
All have come out of us, and all may return to us; they are ours.

Man comes forward, inherent, superb,
The ripeness of religion is doubtless to be looked for in this field of individuality, and is a result that no organization or church can ever achieve.
But not that half only, individualism, which isolates. There is another half, which is adhesiveness or love, that fuses, ties and aggregates, fraternizing all.
Both are to be vitalized by religion—
Most neglected, in our age, of all the attributes of humanity, too long unencouraged, unsung, easily covered with cant, abased, rejected, almost unknown,
Yet the only certain source of what all are incessantly seeking, yet none find.

I will see whether there is not a religion, and a sound religious germenancy, in the average human race, and in the hardy common fiber and native yearnings and elements, deeper and larger, and affording more profitable returns, than all mere sects or churches,
Something greater than all the science and poems of the world—above all else, like the stars shining elusive, eternal—high above all the vaunted wealth and pride—as boundless, joyous, and vital as nature itself —prov’d by its practical outcropping in life—
The intuitive blending of divine love and faith in a human emotional character—blending for all, for the unlearn’d, the common, and the poor.
(No year, nor even century, will settle this. There is in the intellect of man, in time, far in prospective recesses, a judgment, a last appellate court, which will settle it.) 

Priests! I heard what was said of the universe,
Heard it and heard it of several thousand years;
It is middling well as far as it goes—but is that all?
I tell you that all your caste have said about Belus, Osirus, and Jehovah is a shallow description,
All you pile up is not august enough to dent the partition in my nose.

I know as well as you that bibles are divine revelations,
But do you stop there? Have you no more faith than that?
Would you bribe the Lord with some stray change?
I live in no such infinitesimal meanness as that,
I outbid you, shallow hucksters!
Not objecting to special revelations, I see all else, all nature, and each and all that to it appertains, the processes of time, all men, the universes, all likes and dislikes and developments—a hundred, a thousand other saviours and mediators and bibles—they too just as much revelations as any—
A hair on the back of my hand, each hair of my breast and beard, as curious as any revelation—

The grand and vital theory of religion for women and men must admit all, and not a part merely.

Fables, traditions and formulas are not animate things,
In all of them and all existing creeds grows not so much of God as I grow in my
moustache.
Priests! Until your creeds can do as much as apples and hen’s eggs, let down your eyebrows a little,

I say that each leaf of grass or a curl of smoke is also a revelation just as divine.

Other poets have formed for themselves an ideal, apart from positive life, and disdainful of it,
But for me, I ask nothing better or more divine than real life, here, now,
Nothing is more divine than simple and natural things are 
divine—
Faith! If I had an infidel to convert, I would take him on the mountains, of a clear and beautiful night, when the stars are shining.

I will take a sprig of parsley and go and preach to the world—
I say that all the churches now standing were well employed in orisons to a sprig of parsley—
You shall see I will not meet a single heretic or scorner,
Can you say as much of all the lore of the priesthood?
You shall see me showing a scarlet tomato, a budding rose, a branch of gooseberries from the old bush in the garden, an egg out of the robin’s nest, and a white pebble from the beach,
You shall see how I stump clergymen, and confound them.

I am he who finds the supernatural of no account,
The whole theory of the supernatural and all that was twined with it or educed out of it departs as a dream.
The last, best dependence is to be upon humanity itself, and its own inherent, normal, full-grown qualities, without any superstitious support whatever.
Nothing carries the day now but the clearly authenticated narrative, and the solid, touchable, seeable, demonstrable substance and its action, and the plain reasons and proofs how and why;
A hundred popes’ bulls would get less respect than an inch or an ounce of the cabin boy’s or the dung-pitcher’s word who testified that he saw.

The threat of what is call’d hell is little or nothing to me,
And the lure of what is call’d heaven is little or nothing to me,
Beyond the flames of hell, joyous, leaping easily above hell,
Beyond paradise, perfumed solely with mine own perfume.
Earth is man’s heaven or hell, according as he acts or is situated, (or else the entire scheme of things is aimless, a cheat, a crash.)
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate into a new tongue.

That which is not conscience, but against it I include—that which is not the soul I include,
These and whatever exists, I include—I surround all, and dare not make a single exclusion.
One doubts if there will ever come a day when the moral laws and moral standards will be supplanted. But the scientific, democratic, and truly philosophical and poetic thought of the moderns demands a Deific identity and scope superior to all that, and essentially including just as well the so-called evil—including God, including Saviour and Satan.

Lucifer, the denied god, was not dead, or if he was I am his sorrowful terrible heir,
But I do not deny him—though cast out and rebellious, he is my god as much as any.
In religious fervor there is a touch of animal heat,
There is a close connection—a very close connection—between the state we call religious ecstasy and the desire to copulate. I find it confirmed in all my experience.

I am the poet of sin,
For I do not believe in sin.
Nothing is sinful to us outside of ourselves,
Whatever appears, whatever does not appear, we are beautiful or sinful in ourselves only.
He who sees darkness and despair in the sum of the workings of God’s providence, and who, in that, denies or prevaricates, is, no matter how much piety plays on his lips, the most radical sinner and infidel.
(The wonder is always and always how there can be a mean man or an infidel.)

I demand of religion that it quit all that ridiculous terror at evil and evil-doers. I would have something that is not afraid of existing things, and adjusts itself to the ranges of real life and all men and women, to limn with absolute faith the mighty living present. That would be a religion of some account. That would be indeed a religion which met the work to be done, and did not daintily avoid it or helplessly stand afar off and scream.

Religion is the devout realising—which comes from the amplest knowledge, as, strange to say, it also comes from extremest simplicity—that man and the universe have a fitting, proportionate purpose.
What is this world without a further divine purpose in it all—
The idea which, purifying all other ideas and things, gives endless meaning and purpose and growth to a man or woman, and in him or her condenses the drift of all things,
the scheme of things, the destinies which it necessitates,
Eternal trains of purpose in the development, by however slow degrees, of the physical, moral, and spiritual kosmos—
Streams of death and life, object and subject, the real and ideal,
In I myself, in all the world, in you whoe’er you are, these currents flowing,
All, all toward the mystic ocean tending,
Subterranean sea-rills making for the sea,
For the eternal ocean bound.

Give me O God to sing that thought,
Give me, give him or her I love, this quenchless faith,
In thy ensemble, whatever else withheld withhold not from us,
Belief in plan of thee enclosed in time and space,
Health, peace, salvation universal.
Is it a dream?
Nay but the lack of it the dream,
And failing it life’s lore and wealth a dream,
And all the world a dream.

The thought of God, brooding in the soul, in silence, is superb and is inevitable, leading to perfect faith.
Faith is the antiseptic of the soul,
With magnitude and limitlessness suitable to the human soul,
Looks the universe full in the face—its bad in the face, its good—and says yes to 
it—
Behold the great rondure, the cohesion of all, how perfect!
The varieties, contradictions, and paradoxes of the world and of life—so baffling to the superficial observer, and so often leading to despair—become a series of infinite radiations and waves of the one sea-like universe of action and progress.

Here is what sings unrestricted faith, entire faith and acceptance, faith in whatever happens—
An implicit belief in the wisdom, health, mystery, beauty of every process, every concrete object, every human or other existence, not only considered from the point of view of all, but of each.
I say he has studied, meditated to no profit, whatever may be his mere erudition, who has not absorb’d this simple consciousness and faith.

NEXT: THE PRACTICE OF THE NEW RELIGION