The Theory of the Leisure Class, by Thorstein Veblen

Chapter Twelve

Devout Observances

A discoursive rehearsal of certain incidents of modern life will show the organic relation of the anthropomorphic cults to the barbarian culture and temperament. It will likewise serve to show how the survival and efficacy of the cults and he prevalence of their schedule of devout observances are related to the institution of a leisure class and to the springs of action underlying that institution. Without any intention to commend or to deprecate the practices to be spoken of under the head of devout observances, or the spiritual and intellectual traits of which these observances are the expression, the everyday phenomena of current anthropomorphic cults may be taken up from the point of view of the interest which they have for economic theory. What can properly be spoken of here are the tangible, external features of devout observances. The moral, as well as the devotional value of the life of faith lies outside of the scope of the present inquiry. Of course no question is here entertained as to the truth or beauty of the creeds on which the cults proceed. And even their remoter economic bearing can not be taken up here; the subject is too recondite and of too grave import to find a place in so slight a sketch.

Something has been said in an earlier chapter as to the influence which pecuniary standards of value exert upon the processes of valuation carried out on other bases, not related to the pecuniary interest. The relation is not altogether one-sided. The economic standards or canons of valuation are in their turn influenced by extra-economic standards of value. Our judgments of the economic bearing of facts are to some extent shaped by the dominant presence of these weightier interests. There is a point of view, indeed, from which the economic interest is of weight only as being ancillary to these higher, non-economic interests. For the present purpose, therefore, some thought must be taken to isolate the economic interest or the economic hearing of these phenomena of anthropomorphic cults. It takes some effort to divest oneself of the more serious point of view, and to reach an economic appreciation of these facts, with as little as may be of the bias due to higher interests extraneous to economic theory. In the discussion of the sporting temperament, it has appeared that the sense of an animistic propensity in material things and events is what affords the spiritual basis of the sporting man’s gambling habit. For the economic purpose, this sense of propensity is substantially the same psychological element as expresses itself, under a variety of forms, in animistic beliefs and anthropomorphic creeds. So far as concerns those tangible psychological features with which economic theory has to deal, the gambling spirit which pervades the sporting element shades off by insensible gradations into that frame of mind which finds gratification in devout observances. As seen from the point of view of economic theory, the sporting character shades off into the character of a religious devotee. Where the betting man’s animistic sense is helped out by a somewhat consistent tradition, it has developed into a more or less articulate belief in a preternatural or hyperphysical agency, with something of an anthropomorphic content. And where this is the case, there is commonly a perceptible inclination to make terms with the preternatural agency by some approved method of approach and conciliation. This element of propitiation and cajoling has much in common with the crasser forms of worship — if not in historical derivation, at least in actual psychological content. It obviously shades off in unbroken continuity into what is recognized as superstitious practice and belief, and so asserts its claim to kinship with the grosser anthropomorphic cults.

The sporting or gambling temperament, then, comprises some of the substantial psychological elements that go to make a believer in creeds and an observer of devout forms, the chief point of coincidence being the belief in an inscrutable propensity or a preternatural interposition in the sequence of events. For the purpose of the gambling practice the belief in preternatural agency may be, and ordinarily is, less closely formulated, especially as regards the habits of thought and the scheme of life imputed to the preternatural agent; or, in other words, as regards his moral character and his purposes in interfering in events. With respect to the individuality or personality of the agency whose presence as luck, or chance, or hoodoo, or mascot, etc., he feels and sometimes dreads and endeavors to evade, the sporting man’s views are also less specific, less integrated and differentiated. The basis of his gambling activity is, in great measure, simply an instinctive sense of the presence of a pervasive extraphysical and arbitrary force or propensity in things or situations, which is scarcely recognized as a personal agent. The betting man is not infrequently both a believer in luck, in this naive sense, and at the same time a pretty staunch adherent of some form of accepted creed. He is especially prone to accept so much of the creed as concerts the inscrutable power and the arbitrary habits of the divinity which has won his confidence. In such a case he is possessed of two, or sometimes more than two, distinguishable phases of animism. Indeed, the complete series of successive phases of animistic belief is to be found unbroken in the spiritual furniture of any sporting community. Such a chain of animistic conceptions will comprise the most elementary form of an instinctive sense of luck and chance and fortuitous necessity at one end of the series, together with the perfectly developed anthropomorphic divinity at the other end, with all intervening stages of integration. Coupled with these beliefs in preternatural agency goes an instinctive shaping of conduct to conform with the surmised requirements of the lucky chance on the one hand, and a more or less devout submission to the inscrutable decrees of the divinity on the other hand.

There is a relationship in this respect between the sporting temperament and the temperament of the delinquent classes; and the two are related to the temperament which inclines to an anthropomorphic cult. Both the delinquent and the sporting man are on the average more apt to be adherents of some accredited creed, and are also rather more inclined to devout observances, than the general average of the community. It is also noticeable that unbelieving members of these classes show more of a proclivity to become proselytes to some accredited faith than the average of unbelievers. This fact of observation is avowed by the spokesmen of sports, especially in apologizing for the more naively predatory athletic sports. Indeed, it is somewhat insistently claimed as a meritorious feature of sporting life that the habitual participants in athletic games are in some degree peculiarly given to devout practices. And it is observable that the cult to which sporting men and the predaceous delinquent classes adhere, or to which proselytes from these classes commonly attach themselves, is ordinarily not one of the so-called higher faiths, but a cult which has to do with a thoroughly anthropomorphic divinity. Archaic, predatory human nature is not satisfied with abstruse conceptions of a dissolving personality that shades off into the concept of quantitative causal sequence, such as the speculative, esoteric creeds of Christendom impute to the First Cause, Universal Intelligence, World Soul, or Spiritual Aspect. As an instance of a cult of the character which the habits of mind of the athlete and the delinquent require, may be cited that branch of the church militant known as the Salvation Army. This is to some extent recruited from the lower-class delinquents, and it appears to comprise also, among its officers especially, a larger proportion of men with a sporting record than the proportion of such men in the aggregate population of the community.

College athletics afford a case in point. It is contended by exponents of the devout element in college life — and there seems to be no ground for disputing the claim — that the desirable athletic material afforded by any student body in this country is at the same time predominantly religious; or that it is at least given to devout observances to a greater degree than the average of those students whose interest in athletics and other college sports is less. This is what might be expected on theoretical grounds. It may be remarked, by the way, that from one point of view this is felt to reflect credit on the college sporting life, on athletic games, and on those persons who occupy themselves with these matters. It happens not frequently that college sporting men devote themselves to religious propaganda, either as a vocation or as a by-occupation; and it is observable that when this happens they are likely to become propagandists of some one of the more anthropomorphic cults. In their teaching they are apt to insist chiefly on the personal relation of status which subsists between an anthropomorphic divinity and the human subject.

This intimate relation between athletics and devout observance among college men is a fact of sufficient notoriety; but it has a special feature to which attention has not been called, although it is obvious enough. The religious zeal which pervades much of the college sporting element is especially prone to express itself in an unquestioning devoutness and a naive and complacent submission to an inscrutable Providence. It therefore by preference seeks affiliation with some one of those lay religious organizations which occupy themselves with the spread of the exoteric forms of faith — as, e.g., the Young Men’s Christian Association or the Young People’s Society for Christian Endeavor. These lay bodies are organized to further “practical” religion; and as if to enforce the argument and firmly establish the close relationship between the sporting temperament and the archaic devoutness, these lay religious bodies commonly devote some appreciable portion of their energies to the furtherance of athletic contests and similar games of chance and skill. It might even be said that sports of this kind are apprehended to have some efficacy as a means of grace. They are apparently useful as a means of proselyting, and as a means of sustaining the devout attitude in converts once made. That is to say, the games which give exercise to the animistic sense and to the emulative propensity help to form and to conserve that habit of mind to which the more exoteric cults are congenial. Hence, in the hands of the lay organizations, these sporting activities come to do duty as a novitiate or a means of induction into that fuller unfolding of the life of spiritual status which is the privilege of the full communicant along.

That the exercise of the emulative and lower animistic proclivities are substantially useful for the devout purpose seems to be placed beyond question by the fact that the priesthood of many denominations is following the lead of the lay organizations in this respect. Those ecclesiastical organizations especially which stand nearest the lay organizations in their insistence on practical religion have gone some way towards adopting these or analogous practices in connection with the traditional devout observances. So there are “boys’ brigades,” and other organizations, under clerical sanction, acting to develop the emulative proclivity and the sense of status in the youthful members of the congregation. These pseudo-military organizations tend to elaborate and accentuate the proclivity to emulation and invidious comparison, and so strengthen the native facility for discerning and approving the relation of personal mastery and subservience. And a believer is eminently a person who knows how to obey and accept chastisement with good grace. But the habits of thought which these practices foster and conserve make up but one half of the substance of the anthropomorphic cults. The other, complementary element of devout life — the animistic habit of mind — is recruited and conserved by a second range of practices organized under clerical sanction. These are the class of gambling practices of which the church bazaar or raffle may be taken as the type. As indicating the degree of legitimacy of these practices in connection with devout observances proper, it is to be remarked that these raffles, and the like trivial opportunities for gambling, seem to appeal with more effect to the common run of the members of religious organizations than they do to persons of a less devout habit of mind.

All this seems to argue, on the one hand, that the same temperament inclines people to sports as inclines them to the anthropomorphic cults, and on the other hand that the habituation to sports, perhaps especially to athletic sports, acts to develop the propensities which find satisfaction in devout observances. Conversely; it also appears that habituation to these observances favors the growth of a proclivity for athletic sports and for all games that give play to the habit of invidious comparison and of the appeal to luck. Substantially the same range of propensities finds expression in both these directions of the spiritual life. That barbarian human nature in which the predatory instinct and the animistic standpoint predominate is normally prone to both. The predatory habit of mind involves an accentuated sense of personal dignity and of the relative standing of individuals. The social structure in which the predatory habit has been the dominant factor in the shaping of institutions is a structure based on status. The pervading norm in the predatory community’s scheme of life is the relation of superior and inferior, noble and base, dominant and subservient persons and classes, master and slave. The anthropomorphic cults have come down from that stage of industrial development and have been shaped by the same scheme of economic differentiation — a differentiation into consumer and producer — and they are pervaded by the same dominant principle of mastery and subservience. The cults impute to their divinity the habits of thought answering to the stage of economic differentiation at which the cults took shape. The anthropomorphic divinity is conceived to be punctilious in all questions of precedence and is prone to an assertion of mastery and an arbitrary exercise of power — an habitual resort to force as the final arbiter.

In the later and maturer formulations of the anthropomorphic creed this imputed habit of dominance on the part of a divinity of awful presence and inscrutable power is chastened into “the fatherhood of God.” The spiritual attitude and the aptitudes imputed to the preternatural agent are still such as belong under the regime of status, but they now assume the patriarchal cast characteristic of the quasi-peaceable stage of culture. Still it is to be noted that even in this advanced phase of the cult the observances in which devoutness finds expression consistently aim to propitiate the divinity by extolling his greatness and glory and by professing subservience and fealty. The act of propitiation or of worship is designed to appeal to a sense of status imputed to the inscrutable power that is thus approached. The propitiatory formulas most in vogue are still such as carry or imply an invidious comparison. A loyal attachment to the person of an anthropomorphic divinity endowed with such an archaic human nature implies the like archaic propensities in the devotee. For the purposes of economic theory, the relation of fealty, whether to a physical or to an extraphysical person, is to be taken as a variant of that personal subservience which makes up so large a share of the predatory and the quasi-peaceable scheme of life.

The barbarian conception of the divinity, as a warlike chieftain inclined to an overbearing manner of government, has been greatly softened through the milder manners and the soberer habits of life that characterize those cultural phases which lie between the early predatory stage and the present. But even after this chastening of the devout fancy, and the consequent mitigation of the harsher traits of conduct and character that are currently imputed to the divinity, there still remains in the popular apprehension of the divine nature and temperament a very substantial residue of the barbarian conception. So it comes about, for instance, that in characterizing the divinity and his relations to the process of human life, speakers and writers are still able to make effective use of similes borrowed from the vocabulary of war and of the predatory manner of life, as well as of locutions which involve an invidious comparison. Figures of speech of this import are used with good effect even in addressing the less warlike modern audiences, made up of adherents of the blander variants of the creed. This effective use of barbarian epithets and terms of comparison by popular speakers argues that the modern generation has retained a lively appreciation of the dignity and merit of the barbarian virtues; and it argues also that there is a degree of congruity between the devout attitude and the predatory habit of mind. It is only on second thought, if at all, that the devout fancy of modern worshippers revolts at the imputation of ferocious and vengeful emotions and actions to the object of their adoration. It is a matter of common observation that sanguinary epithets applied to the divinity have a high aesthetic and honorific value in the popular apprehension. That is to say, suggestions which these epithets carry are very acceptable to our unreflecting apprehension.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord: He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword; His truth is marching on.

The guiding habits of thought of a devout person move on the plane of an archaic scheme of life which has outlived much of its usefulness for the economic exigencies of the collective life of today. In so far as the economic organization fits the exigencies of the collective life of today, it has outlived the regime of status, and has no use and no place for a relation of personal subserviency. So far as concerns the economic efficiency of the community, the sentiment of personal fealty, and the general habit of mind of which that sentiment is an expression, are survivals which cumber the ground and hinder an adequate adjustment of human institutions to the existing situation. The habit of mind which best lends itself to the purposes of a peaceable, industrial community, is that matter-of-fact temper which recognizes the value of material facts simply as opaque items in the mechanical sequence. It is that frame of mind which does not instinctively impute an animistic propensity to things, nor resort to preternatural intervention as an explanation of perplexing phenomena, nor depend on an unseen hand to shape the course of events to human use. To meet the requirements of the highest economic efficiency under modern conditions, the world process must habitually be apprehended in terms of quantitative, dispassionate force and sequence.

As seen from the point of view of the later economic exigencies, devoutness is, perhaps in all cases, to be looked upon as a survival from an earlier phase of associated life — a mark of arrested spiritual development. Of course it remains true that in a community where the economic structure is still substantially a system of status; where the attitude of the average of persons in the community is consequently shaped by and adapted to the relation of personal dominance and personal subservience; or where for any other reason — of tradition or of inherited aptitude — the population as a whole is strongly inclined to devout observances; there a devout habit of mind in any individual, not in excess of the average of the community, must be taken simply as a detail of the prevalent habit of life. In this light, a devout individual in a devout community can not be called a case of reversion, since he is abreast of the average of the community. But as seen from the point of view of the modern industrial situation, exceptional devoutness — devotional zeal that rises appreciably above the average pitch of devoutness in the community — may safely be set down as in all cases an atavistic trait.

It is, of course, equally legitimate to consider these phenomena from a different point of view. They may be appreciated for a different purpose, and the characterization here offered may be turned about. In speaking from the point of view of the devotional interest, or the interest of devout taste, it may, with equal cogency, be said that the spiritual attitude bred in men by the modern industrial life is unfavorable to a free development of the life of faith. It might fairly be objected to the later development of the industrial process that its discipline tends to “materialism,” to the elimination of filial piety. From the aesthetic point of view, again, something to a similar purport might be said. But, however legitimate and valuable these and the like reflections may be for their purpose, they would not be in place in the present inquiry, which is exclusively concerned with the valuation of these phenomena from the economic point of view.

The grave economic significance of the anthropomorphic habit of mind and of the addiction to devout observances must serve as apology for speaking further on a topic which it can not but be distasteful to discuss at all as an economic phenomenon in a community so devout as ours. Devout observances are of economic importance as an index of a concomitant variation of temperament, accompanying the predatory habit of mind and so indicating the presence of industrially disserviceable traits. They indicate the presence of a mental attitude which has a certain economic value of its own by virtue of its influence upon the industrial serviceability of the individual. But they are also of importance more directly, in modifying the economic activities of the community, especially as regards the distribution and consumption of goods.

The most obvious economic bearing of these observances is seen in the devout consumption of goods and services. The consumption of ceremonial paraphernalia required by any cult, in the way of shrines, temples, churches, vestments, sacrifices, sacraments, holiday attire, etc., serves no immediate material end. All this material apparatus may, therefore, without implying deprecation, be broadly characterized as items of conspicuous waste. The like is true in a general way of the personal service consumed under this head; such as priestly education, priestly service, pilgrimages, fasts, holidays, household devotions, and the like. At the same time the observances in the execution of which this consumption takes place serve to extend and protract the vogue of those habits of thought on which an anthropomorphic cult rests. That is to say, they further the habits of thought characteristic of the regime of status. They are in so far an obstruction to the most effective organization of industry under modern circumstances; and are, in the first instance, antagonistic to the development of economic institutions in the direction required by the situation of today. For the present purpose, the indirect as well as the direct effects of this consumption are of the nature of a curtailment of the community’s economic efficiency. In economic theory, then, and considered in its proximate consequences, the consumption of goods and effort in the service of an anthropomorphic divinity means a lowering of the vitality of the community. What may be the remoter, indirect, moral effects of this class of consumption does not admit of a succinct answer, and it is a question which can not be taken up here.

It will be to the point, however, to note the general economic character of devout consumption, in comparison with consumption for other purposes. An indication of the range of motives and purposes from which devout consumption of goods proceeds will help toward an appreciation of the value both of this consumption itself and of the general habit of mind to which it is congenial. There is a striking parallelism, if not rather a substantial identity of motive, between the consumption which goes to the service of an anthropomorphic divinity and that which goes to the service of a gentleman of leisure chieftain or patriarch — in the upper class of society during the barbarian culture. Both in the case of the chieftain and in that of the divinity there are expensive edifices set apart for the behoof of the person served. These edifices, as well as the properties which supplement them in the service, must not be common in kind or grade; they always show a large element of conspicuous waste. It may also be noted that the devout edifices are invariably of an archaic cast in their structure and fittings. So also the servants, both of the chieftain and of the divinity, must appear in the presence clothed in garments of a special, ornate character. The characteristic economic feature of this apparel is a more than ordinarily accentuated conspicuous waste, together with the secondary feature — more accentuated in the case of the priestly servants than in that of the servants or courtiers of the barbarian potentate — that this court dress must always be in some degree of an archaic fashion. Also the garments worn by the lay members of the community when they come into the presence, should be of a more expensive kind than their everyday apparel. Here, again, the parallelism between the usage of the chieftain’s audience hall and that of the sanctuary is fairly well marked. In this respect there is required a certain ceremonial “cleanness” of attire, the essential feature of which, in the economic respect, is that the garments worn on these occasions should carry as little suggestion as may be of any industrial occupation or of any habitual addiction to such employments as are of material use.

This requirement of conspicuous waste and of ceremonial cleanness from the traces of industry extends also to the apparel, and in a less degree to the food, which is consumed on sacred holidays; that is to say, on days set apart — tabu — for the divinity or for some member of the lower ranks of the preternatural leisure class. In economic theory, sacred holidays are obviously to be construed as a season of vicarious leisure performed for the divinity or saint in whose name the tabu is imposed and to whose good repute the abstention from useful effort on these days is conceived to inure. The characteristic feature of all such seasons of devout vicarious leisure is a more or less rigid tabu on all activity that is of human use. In the case of fast-days the conspicuous abstention from gainful occupations and from all pursuits that (materially) further human life is further accentuated by compulsory abstinence from such consumption as would conduce to the comfort or the fullness of life of the consumer.

It may be remarked, parenthetically, that secular holidays are of the same origin, by slightly remoter derivation. They shade off by degrees from the genuinely sacred days, through an intermediate class of semi-sacred birthdays of kings and great men who have been in some measure canonized, to the deliberately invented holiday set apart to further the good repute of some notable event or some striking fact, to which it is intended to do honor, or the good fame of which is felt to be in need of repair. The remoter refinement in the employment of vicarious leisure as a means of augmenting the good repute of a phenomenon or datum is seen at its best in its very latest application. A day of vicarious leisure has in some communities been set apart as Labor Day. This observance is designed to augment the prestige of the fact of labor, by the archaic, predatory method of a compulsory abstention from useful effort. To this datum of labor-ingeneral is imputed the good repute attributable to the pecuniary strength put in evidence by abstaining from labor. Sacred holidays, and holidays generally, are of the nature of a tribute levied on the body of the people. The tribute is paid in vicarious leisure, and the honorific effect which emerges is imputed to the person or the fact for whose good repute the holiday has been instituted. Such a tithe of vicarious leisure is a perquisite of all members of the preternatural leisure class and is indispensable to their good fame. Un saint qu’on ne chôme pas is indeed a saint fallen on evil days.

Besides this tithe of vicarious leisure levied on the laity, there are also special classes of persons — the various grades of priests and hierodules — whose time is wholly set apart for a similar service. It is not only incumbent on the priestly class to abstain from vulgar labor, especially so far as it is lucrative or is apprehended to contribute to the temporal well-being of mankind. The tabu in the case of the priestly class goes farther and adds a refinement in the form of an injunction against their seeking worldly gain even where it may be had without debasing application to industry. It is felt to be unworthy of the servant of the divinity, or rather unworthy the dignity of the divinity whose servant he is, that he should seek material gain or take thought for temporal matters. “Of all contemptible things a man who pretends to be a priest of God and is a priest to his own comforts and ambitions is the most contemptible.” There is a line of discrimination, which a cultivated taste in matters of devout observance finds little difficulty in drawing, between such actions and conduct as conduce to the fullness of human life and such as conduce to the good fame of the anthropomorphic divinity; and the activity of the priestly class, in the ideal barbarian scheme, falls wholly on the hither side of this line. What falls within the range of economics falls below the proper level of solicitude of the priesthood in its best estate. Such apparent exceptions to this rule as are afforded, for instance, by some of the medieval orders of monks (the members of which actually labored to some useful end), scarcely impugn the rule. These outlying orders of the priestly class are not a sacerdotal element in the full sense of the term. And it is noticeable also that these doubtfully sacerdotal orders, which countenanced their members in earning a living, fell into disrepute through offending the sense of propriety in the communities where they existed.

The priest should not put his hand to mechanically productive work; but he should consume in large measure. But even as regards his consumption it is to be noted that it should take such forms as do not obviously conduce to his own comfort or fullness of life; it should conform to the rules governing vicarious consumption, as explained under that head in an earlier chapter. It is not ordinarily in good form for the priestly class to appear well fed or in hilarious spirits. Indeed, in many of the more elaborate cults the injunction against other than vicarious consumption by this class frequently goes so far as to enjoin mortification of the flesh. And even in those modern denominations which have been organized under the latest formulations of the creed, in a modern industrial community, it is felt that all levity and avowed zest in the enjoyment of the good things of this world is alien to the true clerical decorum. Whatever suggests that these servants of an invisible master are living a life, not of devotion to their master’s good fame, but of application to their own ends, jars harshly on our sensibilities as something fundamentally and eternally wrong. They are a servant class, although, being servants of a very exalted master, they rank high in the social scale by virtue of this borrowed light. Their consumption is vicarious consumption; and since, in the advanced cults, their master has no need of material gain, their occupation is vicarious leisure in the full sense. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” It may be added that so far as the laity is assimilated to the priesthood in the respect that they are conceived to be servants of the divinity. So far this imputed vicarious character attaches also to the layman’s life. The range of application of this corollary is somewhat wide. It applies especially to such movements for the reform or rehabilitation of the religious life as are of an austere, pietistic, ascetic cast — where the human subject is conceived to hold his life by a direct servile tenure from his spiritual sovereign. That is to say, where the institution of the priesthood lapses, or where there is an exceptionally lively sense of the immediate and masterful presence of the divinity in the affairs of life, there the layman is conceived to stand in an immediate servile relation to the divinity, and his life is construed to be a performance of vicarious leisure directed to the enhancement of his master’s repute. In such cases of reversion there is a return to the unmediated relation of subservience, as the dominant fact of the devout attitude. The emphasis is thereby throw on an austere and discomforting vicarious leisure, to the neglect of conspicuous consumption as a means of grace.

A doubt will present itself as to the full legitimacy of this characterization of the sacerdotal scheme of life, on the ground that a considerable proportion of the modern priesthood departs from the scheme in many details. The scheme does not hold good for the clergy of those denominations which have in some measure diverged from the old established schedule of beliefs or observances. These take thought, at least ostensibly or permissively, for the temporal welfare of the laity, as well as for their own. Their manner of life, not only in the privacy of their own household, but often even before the public, does not differ in an extreme degree from that of secular-minded persons, either in its ostensible austerity or in the archaism of its apparatus. This is truest for those denominations that have wandered the farthest. To this objection it is to be said that we have here to do not with a discrepancy in the theory of sacerdotal life, but with an imperfect conformity to the scheme on the part of this body of clergy. They are but a partial and imperfect representative of the priesthood, and must not be taken as exhibiting the sacerdotal scheme of life in an authentic and competent manner. The clergy of the sects and denominations might be characterized as a half-caste priesthood, or a priesthood in process of becoming or of reconstitution. Such a priesthood may be expected to show the characteristics of the sacerdotal office only as blended and obscured with alien motives and traditions, due to the disturbing presence of other factors than those of animism and status in the purposes of the organizations to which this non-conforming fraction of the priesthood belongs.

Appeal may be taken direct to the taste of any person with a discriminating and cultivated sense of the sacerdotal proprieties, or to the prevalent sense of what constitutes clerical decorum in any community at all accustomed to think or to pass criticism on what a clergyman may or may not do without blame. Even in the most extremely secularized denominations, there is some sense of a distinction that should be observed between the sacerdotal and the lay scheme of life. There is no person of sensibility but feels that where the members of this denominational or sectarian clergy depart from traditional usage, in the direction of a less austere or less archaic demeanor and apparel, they are departing from the ideal of priestly decorum. There is probably no community and no sect within the range of the Western culture in which the bounds of permissible indulgence are not drawn appreciably closer for the incumbent of the priestly office than for the common layman. If the priest’s own sense of sacerdotal propriety does not effectually impose a limit, the prevalent sense of the proprieties on the part of the community will commonly assert itself so obtrusively as to lead to his conformity or his retirement from office.

Few if any members of any body of clergy, it may be added, would avowedly seek an increase of salary for gain’s sake; and if such avowal were openly made by a clergyman, it would be found obnoxious to the sense of propriety among his congregation. It may also be noted in this connection that no one but the scoffers and the very obtuse are not instinctively grieved inwardly at a jest from the pulpit; and that there are none whose respect for their pastor does not suffer through any mark of levity on his part in any conjuncture of life, except it be levity of a palpably histrionic kind — a constrained unbending of dignity. The diction proper to the sanctuary and to the priestly office should also carry little if any suggestion of effective everyday life, and should not draw upon the vocabulary of modern trade or industry. Likewise, one’s sense of the proprieties is readily offended by too detailed and intimate a handling of industrial and other purely human questions at the hands of the clergy. There is a certain level of generality below which a cultivated sense of the proprieties in homiletical discourse will not permit a well-bred clergyman to decline in his discussion of temporal interests. These matters that are of human and secular consequence simply, should properly be handled with such a degree of generality and aloofness as may imply that the speaker represents a master whose interest in secular affairs goes only so far as to permissively countenance them.

It is further to be noticed that the non-conforming sects and variants whose priesthood is here under discussion, vary among themselves in the degree of their conformity to the ideal scheme of sacerdotal life. In a general way it will be found that the divergence in this respect is widest in the case of the relatively young denominations, and especially in the case of such of the newer denominations as have chiefly a lower middle-class constituency. They commonly show a large admixture of humanitarian, philanthropic, or other motives which can not be classed as expressions of the devotional attitude; such as the desire of learning or of conviviality, which enter largely into the effective interest shown by members of these organizations. The non-conforming or sectarian movements have commonly proceeded from a mixture of motives, some of which are at variance with that sense of status on which the priestly office rests. Sometimes, indeed, the motive has been in good part a revulsion against a system of status. Where this is the case the institution of the priesthood has broken down in the transition, at least partially. The spokesman of such an organization is at the outset a servant and representative of the organization, rather than a member of a special priestly class and the spokesman of a divine master. And it is only by a process of gradual specialization that, in succeeding generations, this spokesman regains the position of priest, with a full investiture of sacerdotal authority, and with its accompanying austere, archaic and vicarious manner of life. The like is true of the breakdown and redintegration of devout ritual after such a revulsion. The priestly office, the scheme of sacerdotal life, and the schedule of devout observances are rehabilitated only gradually, insensibly, and with more or less variation in details, as a persistent human sense of devout propriety reasserts its primacy in questions touching the interest in the preternatural — and it may be added, as the organization increases in wealth, and so acquires more of the point of view and the habits of thought of a leisure class.

Beyond the priestly class, and ranged in an ascending hierarchy, ordinarily comes a superhuman vicarious leisure class of saints, angels, etc. — or their equivalents in the ethnic cults. These rise in grade, one above another, according to elaborate system of status. The principle of status runs through the entire hierarchical system, both visible and invisible. The good fame of these several orders of the supernatural hierarchy also commonly requires a certain tribute of vicarious consumption and vicarious leisure. In many cases they accordingly have devoted to their service sub-orders of attendants or dependents who perform a vicarious leisure for them, after much the same fashion as was found in an earlier chapter to be true of the dependent leisure class under the patriarchal system.

It may not appear without reflection how these devout observances and the peculiarity of temperament which they imply, or the consumption of goods and services which is comprised in the cult, stand related to the leisure class of a modern community, or to the economic motives of which that class is the exponent in the modern scheme of life to this end a summary review of certain facts bearing on this relation will be useful. It appears from an earlier passage in this discussion that for the purpose of the collective life of today, especially so far as concerns the industrial efficiency of the modern community, the characteristic traits of the devout temperament are a hindrance rather than a help. It should accordingly be found that the modern industrial life tends selectively to eliminate these traits of human nature from the spiritual constitution of the classes that are immediately engaged in the industrial process. It should hold true, approximately, that devoutness is declining or tending to obsolescence among the members of what may be called the effective industrial community. At the same time it should appear that this aptitude or habit survives in appreciably greater vigor among those classes which do not immediately or primarily enter into the community’s life process as an industrial factor.

It has already been pointed out that these latter classes, which live by, rather than in, the industrial process, are roughly comprised under two categories (1) the leisure class proper, which is shielded from the stress of the economic situation; and (2) the indigent classes, including the lower-class delinquents, which are unduly exposed to the stress. In the case of the former class an archaic habit of mind persists because no effectual economic pressure constrains this class to an adaptation of its habits of thought to the changing situation; while in the latter the reason for a failure to adjust their habits of thought to the altered requirements of industrial efficiency is innutrition, absence of such surplus of energy as is needed in order to make the adjustment with facility, together with a lack of opportunity to acquire and become habituated to the modern point of view. The trend of the selective process runs in much the same direction in both cases.

From the point of view which the modern industrial life inculcates, phenomena are habitually subsumed under the quantitative relation of mechanical sequence. The indigent classes not only fall short of the modicum of leisure necessary in order to appropriate and assimilate the more recent generalizations of science which this point of view involves, but they also ordinarily stand in such a relation of personal dependence or subservience to their pecuniary superiors as materially to retard their emancipation from habits of thought proper to the regime of status. The result is that these classes in some measure retain that general habit of mind the chief expression of which is a strong sense of personal status, and of which devoutness is one feature.

In the older communities of the European culture, the hereditary leisure class, together with the mass of the indigent population, are given to devout observances in an appreciably higher degree than the average of the industrious middle class, wherever a considerable class of the latter character exists. But in some of these countries, the two categories of conservative humanity named above comprise virtually the whole population. Where these two classes greatly preponderate, their bent shapes popular sentiment to such an extent as to bear down any possible divergent tendency in the inconsiderable middle class, and imposes a devout attitude upon the whole community.

This must, of course, not be construed to say that such communities or such classes as are exceptionally prone to devout observances tend to conform in any exceptional degree to the specifications of any code of morals that we may be accustomed to associate with this or that confession of faith. A large measure of the devout habit of mind need not carry with it a strict observance of the injunctions of the Decalogue or of the common law. Indeed, it is becoming somewhat of a commonplace with observers of criminal life in European communities that the criminal and dissolute classes are, if anything, rather more devout, and more naively so, than the average of the population. It is among those who constitute the pecuniary middle class and the body of law-abiding citizens that a relative exemption from the devotional attitude is to be looked for. Those who best appreciate the merits of the higher creeds and observances would object to all this and say that the devoutness of the low-class delinquents is a spurious, or at the best a superstitious devoutness; and the point is no doubt well taken and goes directly and cogently to the purpose intended. But for the purpose of the present inquiry these extra-economic, extra-psychological distinctions must perforce be neglected, however valid and however decisive they may be for the purpose for which they are made.

What has actually taken place with regard to class emancipation from the habit of devout observance is shown by the latter-day complaint of the clergy — that the churches are losing the sympathy of the artisan classes, and are losing their hold upon them. At the same time it is currently believed that the middle class, commonly so called, is also falling away in the cordiality of its support of the church, especially so far as regards the adult male portion of that class. These are currently recognized phenomena, and it might seem that a simple reference to these facts should sufficiently substantiate the general position outlined. Such an appeal to the general phenomena of popular church attendance and church membership may be sufficiently convincing for the proposition here advanced. But it will still be to the purpose to trace in some detail the course of events and the particular forces which have wrought this change in the spiritual attitude of the more advanced industrial communities of today. It will serve to illustrate the manner in which economic causes work towards a secularization of men’s habits of thought. In this respect the American community should afford an exceptionally convincing illustration, since this community has been the least trammelled by external circumstances of any equally important industrial aggregate.

After making due allowance for exceptions and sporadic departures from the normal, the situation here at the present time may be summarized quite briefly. As a general rule the classes that are low in economic efficiency, or in intelligence, or both, are peculiarly devout — as, for instance, the Negro population of the South, much of the lower-class foreign population, much of the rural population, especially in those sections which are backward in education, in the stage of development of their industry, or in respect of their industrial contact with the rest of the community. So also such fragments as we possess of a specialized or hereditary indigent class, or of a segregated criminal or dissolute class; although among these latter the devout habit of mind is apt to take the form of a naive animistic belief in luck and in the efficacy of shamanistic practices perhaps more frequently than it takes the form of a formal adherence to any accredited creed. The artisan class, on the other hand, is notoriously falling away from the accredited anthropomorphic creeds and from all devout observances. This class is in an especial degree exposed to the characteristic intellectual and spiritual stress of modern organized industry, which requires a constant recognition of the undisguised phenomena of impersonal, matter-of-fact sequence and an unreserved conformity to the law of cause and effect. This class is at the same time not underfed nor over-worked to such an extent as to leave no margin of energy for the work of adaptation.

The case of the lower or doubtful leisure class in America — the middle class commonly so called — is somewhat peculiar. It differs in respect of its devotional life from its European counterpart, but it differs in degree and method rather than in substance. The churches still have the pecuniary support of this class; although the creeds to which the class adheres with the greatest facility are relatively poor in anthropomorphic content. At the same time the effective middle-class congregation tends, in many cases, more or less remotely perhaps, to become a congregation of women and minors. There is an appreciable lack of devotional fervor among the adult males of the middle class, although to a considerable extent there survives among them a certain complacent, reputable assent to the outlines of the accredited creed under which they were born. Their everyday life is carried on in a more or less close contact with the industrial process.

This peculiar sexual differentiation, which tends to delegate devout observances to the women and their children, is due, at least in part, to the fact that the middle-class women are in great measure a (vicarious) leisure class. The same is true in a less degree of the women of the lower, artisan classes. They live under a regime of status handed down from an earlier stage of industrial development, and thereby they preserve a frame of mind and habits of thought which incline them to an archaic view of things generally. At the same time they stand in no such direct organic relation to the industrial process at large as would tend strongly to break down those habits of thought which, for the modern industrial purpose, are obsolete. That is to say, the peculiar devoutness of women is a particular expression of that conservatism which the women of civilized communities owe, in great measure, to their economic position. For the modern man the patriarchal relation of status is by no means the dominant feature of life; but for the women on the other hand, and for the upper middle-class women especially, confined as they are by prescription and by economic circumstances to their “domestic sphere,” this relation is the most real and most formative factor of life. Hence a habit of mind favorable to devout observances and to the interpretation of the facts of life generally in terms of personal status. The logic, and the logical processes, of her everyday domestic life are carried over into the realm of the supernatural, and the woman finds herself at home and content in a range of ideas which to the man are in great measure alien and imbecile.

Still the men of this class are also not devoid of piety, although it is commonly not piety of an aggressive or exuberant kind. The men of the upper middle class commonly take a more complacent attitude towards devout observances than the men of the artisan class. This may perhaps be explained in part by saying that what is true of the women of the class is true to a less extent also of the men. They are to an appreciable extent a sheltered class; and the patriarchal relation of status which still persists in their conjugal life and in their habitual use of servants, may also act to conserve an archaic habit of mind and may exercise a retarding influence upon the process of secularization which their habits of thought are undergoing. The relations of the American middle-class man to the economic community, however, are usually pretty close and exacting; although it may be remarked, by the way and in qualification, that their economic activity frequently also partakes in some degree of the patriarchal or quasi-predatory character. The occupations which are in good repute among this class and which have most to do with shaping the class habits of thought, are the pecuniary occupations which have been spoken of in a similar connection in an earlier chapter. There is a good deal of the relation of arbitrary command and submission, and not a little of shrewd practice, remotely akin to predatory fraud. All this belongs on the plane of life of the predatory barbarian, to whom a devotional attitude is habitual. And in addition to this, the devout observances also commend themselves to this class on the ground of reputability. But this latter incentive to piety deserves treatment by itself and will be spoken of presently. There is no hereditary leisure class of any consequence in the American community, except in the South. This Southern leisure class is somewhat given to devout observances; more so than any class of corresponding pecuniary standing in other parts of the country. It is also well known that the creeds of the South are of a more old-fashioned cast than their counterparts in the North. Corresponding to this more archaic devotional life of the South is the lower industrial development of that section. The industrial organization of the South is at present, and especially it has been until quite recently, of a more primitive character than that of the American community taken as a whole. It approaches nearer to handicraft, in the paucity and rudeness of its mechanical appliances, and there is more of the element of mastery and subservience. It may also be noted that, owing to the peculiar economic circumstances of this section, the greater devoutness of the Southern population, both white and black, is correlated with a scheme of life which in many ways recalls the barbarian stages of industrial development. Among this population offenses of an archaic character also are and have been relatively more prevalent and are less deprecated than they are elsewhere; as, for example, duels, brawls, feuds, drunkenness, horse-racing, cock-fighting, gambling, male sexual incontinence (evidenced by the considerable number of mulattoes). There is also a livelier sense of honor — an expression of sportsmanship and a derivative of predatory life.

As regards the wealthier class of the North, the American leisure class in the best sense of the term, it is, to begin with, scarcely possible to speak of an hereditary devotional attitude. This class is of too recent growth to be possessed of a well-formed transmitted habit in this respect, or even of a special home-grown tradition. Still, it may be noted in passing that there is a perceptible tendency among this class to give in at least a nominal, and apparently something of a real, adherence to some one of the accredited creeds. Also, weddings, funerals, and the like honorific events among this class are pretty uniformly solemnized with some especial degree of religious circumstance. It is impossible to say how far this adherence to a creed is a bona fide reversion to a devout habit of mind, and how far it is to be classed as a case of protective mimicry assumed for the purpose of an outward assimilation to canons of reputability borrowed from foreign ideals. Something of a substantial devotional propensity seems to be present, to judge especially by the somewhat peculiar degree of ritualistic observance which is in process of development in the upper-class cults. There is a tendency perceptible among the upper-class worshippers to affiliate themselves with those cults which lay relatively great stress on ceremonial and on the spectacular accessories of worship; and in the churches in which an upper-class membership predominates, there is at the same time a tendency to accentuate the ritualistic, at the cost of the intellectual features in the service and in the apparatus of the devout observances. This holds true even where the church in question belongs to a denomination with a relatively slight general development of ritual and paraphernalia. This peculiar development of the ritualistic element is no doubt due in part to a predilection for conspicuously wasteful spectacles, but it probably also in part indicates something of the devotional attitude of the worshippers. So far as the latter is true, it indicates a relatively archaic form of the devotional habit. The predominance of spectacular effects in devout observances is noticeable in all devout communities at a relatively primitive stage of culture and with a slight intellectual development. It is especially characteristic of the barbarian culture. Here there is pretty uniformly present in the devout observances a direct appeal to the emotions through all the avenues of sense. And a tendency to return to this naive, sensational method of appeal is unmistakable in the upper-class churches of today. It is perceptible in a less degree in the cults which claim the allegiance of the lower leisure class and of the middle classes. There is a reversion to the use of colored lights and brilliant spectacles, a freer use of symbols, orchestral music and incense, and one may even detect in “processionals” and “recessionals” and in richly varied genuflexional evolutions, an incipient reversion to so antique an accessory of worship as the sacred dance. This reversion to spectacular observances is not confined to the upper-class cults, although it finds its best exemplification and its highest accentuation in the higher pecuniary and social altitudes. The cults of the lower-class devout portion of the community, such as the Southern Negroes and the backward foreign elements of the population, of course also show a strong inclination to ritual, symbolism, and spectacular effects; as might be expected from the antecedents and the cultural level of those classes. With these classes the prevalence of ritual and anthropomorphism are not so much a matter of reversion as of continued development out of the past. But the use of ritual and related features of devotion are also spreading in other directions. In the early days of the American community the prevailing denominations started out with a ritual and paraphernalia of an austere simplicity; but it is a matter familiar to every one that in the course of time these denominations have, in a varying degree, adopted much of the spectacular elements which they once renounced. In a general way, this development has gone hand in hand with the growth of the wealth and the ease of life of the worshippers and has reached its fullest expression among those classes which grade highest in wealth and repute.

The causes to which this pecuniary stratification of devoutness is due have already been indicated in a general way in speaking of class differences in habits of thought. Class differences as regards devoutness are but a special expression of a generic fact. The lax allegiance of the lower middle class, or what may broadly be called the failure of filial piety among this class, is chiefly perceptible among the town populations engaged in the mechanical industries. In a general way, one does not, at the present time, look for a blameless filial piety among those classes whose employment approaches that of the engineer and the mechanician. These mechanical employments are in a degree a modern fact. The handicraftsmen of earlier times, who served an industrial end of a character similar to that now served by the mechanician, were not similarly refractory under the discipline of devoutness. The habitual activity of the men engaged in these branches of industry has greatly changed, as regards its intellectual discipline, since the modern industrial processes have come into vogue; and the discipline to which the mechanician is exposed in his daily employment affects the methods and standards of his thinking also on topics which lie outside his everyday work. Familiarity with the highly organized and highly impersonal industrial processes of the present acts to derange the animistic habits of thought. The workman’s office is becoming more and more exclusively that of discretion and supervision in a process of mechanical, dispassionate sequences. So long as the individual is the chief and typical prime mover in the process; so long as the obtrusive feature of the industrial process is the dexterity and force of the individual handicraftsman; so long the habit of interpreting phenomena in terms of personal motive and propensity suffers no such considerable and consistent derangement through facts as to lead to its elimination. But under the later developed industrial processes, when the prime movers and the contrivances through which they work are of an impersonal, non-individual character, the grounds of generalization habitually present in the workman’s mind and the point of view from which he habitually apprehends phenomena is an enforced cognizance of matter-of-fact sequence. The result, so far as concerts the workman’s life of faith, is a proclivity to undevout scepticism.

It appears, then, that the devout habit of mind attains its best development under a relatively archaic culture; the term “devout” being of course here used in its anthropological sense simply, and not as implying anything with respect to the spiritual attitude so characterized, beyond the fact of a proneness to devout observances. It appears also that this devout attitude marks a type of human nature which is more in consonance with the predatory mode of life than with the later-developed, more consistently and organically industrial life process of the community. It is in large measure an expression of the archaic habitual sense of personal status — the relation of mastery and subservience — and it therefore fits into the industrial scheme of the predatory and the quasi-peaceable culture, but does not fit into the industrial scheme of the present. It also appears that this habit persists with greatest tenacity among those classes in the modern communities whose everyday life is most remote from the mechanical processes of industry and which are the most conservative also in other respects; while for those classes that are habitually in immediate contact with modern industrial processes, and whose habits of thought are therefore exposed to the constraining force of technological necessities, that animistic interpretation of phenomena and that respect of persons on which devout observance proceeds are in process of obsolescence. And also — as bearing especially on the present discussion — it appears that the devout habit to some extent progressively gains in scope and elaboration among those classes in the modern communities to whom wealth and leisure accrue in the most pronounced degree. In this as in other relations, the institution of a leisure class acts to conserve, and even to rehabilitate, that archaic type of human nature and those elements of the archaic culture which the industrial evolution of society in its later stages acts to eliminate.

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