I inaugurate a new religion,
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,
Man comes forward, inherent, superb,
The divine, common, average man advances—ascends to place—
The divine pride of man in himself is the radical foundation of the new religion.
Through space and time, and the flowing, eternal identity,
To nature, encompassing these, encompassing God—to the joyous, electric All—to the sense of death,
A worship new I sing, the entrance of man I sing.
The new theologies bring forward man,
All gathers to the worship of man.
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.
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.
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.
We are all spiritual, by the very necessities of our natures, every man in his measure,
We can no more escape it than the hearts that beat in our bosoms.
Every man has a religion, has something in heaven or earth which he will give up everything else for—
Something which absorbs him, possesses itself of him, makes him over into its image.
It may be something regarded by others as being very paltry, inadequate, useless,
Yet it is his dream, it is his lodestar, it is his master.
We talk about salvation—
We need most of all to be saved from ourselves—our own hells, hates, jealousies, thieveries,
We need most to be saved from our own priests—the priests of the churches, the priests of the arts—
We need that salvation the worst way.
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,
I beg you, sirs, do not presume to put them above me.
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.)
I will see whether there is not a religion, and a sound religious germenancy, in the average human race,
Deeper and larger, and affording more profitable returns, than all mere sects or churches.
Religion soon assuming grander proportions,
Freed from fables, spangles, trickeries,
From the painful constipation and poor narrowness of ecclesiasticism,
Mounts flying to the skies, touches, infuses everyone.
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.
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,
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,
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,
Yet prov’d by its practical outcropping in life.
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.
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—they too just as much revelations as any.
I say that each leaf of grass or a curl of smoke is also a revelation just as divine,
A hair on the back of my hand, each hair of my breast and beard, as curious as any revelation.
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 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?
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.
Let the preachers of creeds never dare to go meditate candidly upon the hills, alone, by day or by night—
If one ever once dare, he is lost!
Nothing is more divine than simple and natural things are divine.
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.
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.
The grand and vital theory of religion for women and men must admit all, and not a part merely,
Characters, events, retrospections, shall be convey’d in gospels,
Trees, animals, waters, shall be convey’d.
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.
The idea of the ministers seems to be, that without the theory of heaven and hell—particularly of hell—society would not be safe—things would not go on—we would collapse!
The threat of what is call’d hell is little or nothing to me,
Beyond the flames of hell, joyous, leaping easily above hell,
And the lure of what is call’d heaven is little or nothing to me,
Beyond paradise, perfumed solely with mine own perfume.
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.
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 churches have constructed a god of moral goodness—wholly, solely, moral goodness—and that is its weakness. According to such a standard of moral goodness—the standard of the churches—probably nine-tenths of the universe is depraved, probably nine-tenths denied a right in the scheme of things—which is ridiculous, outright—might have satisfied an older intelligence, but will not ours.
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.
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.
Lucifer, the denied god, is not dead,
Or if he is I am his sorrowful terrible heir; I do not deny him,
Though cast out and rebellious, he is my god as much as any—
Satan, comrade of criminals, crafty, despised,
A drudge, ignorant, huge, frowning, sorrowful,
With sudra face and worn brow, but proud as any,
Full of guile, brooding, with many wiles,
Aloof, dissatisfied, plotting revolt,
In new lands duly appearing, (and old ones also,)
Permanent, warlike, equal with any, real as any.
I am the poet of sin, for I do not believe in sin,
The introspective, sin-seeking nature makes no appeal to my constitutional peculiarities;
I never, never was troubled to know whether I would be saved or lost—what was that to me?
I go with the sinners who are not so damned sure.
Procreation is just as divine as spirituality. There is a close connection—a very close connection—between the state we call religious ecstasy and the desire to copulate. In religious fervor there is a touch of animal heat. I find it confirmed in all my experience.
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.
NEXT: SCIENCE AND FAITH