Religion and the Rebel

‘A few words should be said about the plan of this book. It has given me far more trouble to write than The Outsider, for the subject is far more complex. In the first chapter, I have tried to present the outline of The Outsider in a concentrated form, and to emphasise that what I mean by existentialism covers a broader field than what Kierkegaard or Heidegger or Sartre mean by it; my existentialism is closer to Goethe’s idea of Bildung. I have tried to underline this by illustrating my thesis with analyses of Rilke, Rimbaud and Scott Fitzgerald; the last because he is, in all essentials, a man of the twentieth century.’


‘The second part of the book swings back to the problem of the Outsider, and his attempt to become an Insider by accepting a religious solution: Boehme, Swedenborg, Pascal, Ferrar, Law, Newman, Kierkegaard and Shaw are all examined and their solutions scrutinised. Shaw is deliberately included in the list of ‘religious Outsiders’ to emphasise that he is not quite the lone phenomenon that modern critics seem to believe, and to demonstrate his affinities with other anti-materialist thinkers since the sixteenth century.’


‘Like The Outsider, this book will be a casebook. But most of the emphasis will no longer be on the sense of misery and futility. In The Outsider, a formula was arrived at: The Outsider’s salvation lies in extremes. One could rephrase that: The Outsider only ceases to be an Outsider when he becomes possessed, when he becomes fanatically obsessed by the need to escape.’


‘The second part of this book will be mainly concerned with defining these notions of ‘heaven’ and ‘supersanity.’’


‘The Outsider was an attempt to argue the thesis that man is not complete without a religion. The inspiration of the book was William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience. James had also, in his own way, attempted to do what Pascal, Hulme and Whitehead have attempted. His argument amounts to this: Man is at his most complete when his imagination is at its most intense. Imagination is the power of prehension; without it, man would be an imbecile, without memory, without forethought, without power of interpreting what he sees and feels.’


‘Naturally, this is always bound up with the idea of the heroic. Even the heroism of Hemingway’s novels has an ultimate religious significance.’


‘My thesis was that religion begins with the stimulus which heroism supplies to the imagination. The Outsiders of the early chapters were men with hunger for heroism, stranded in an unheroic age.’


‘I tried to show that the craving for greater intensity of imagination (which means precisely the same as greater intensity of life: ‘to have life more abundantly’) takes the form of a search for the heroic.’


‘I tried to show the way in which heroism is the basis of the lives of all great religious figures.’