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3 1! 131 . 

r/;V ..v, r' ; ; v 1 , 

Religious Development 

of Adolescents/ 


based upon 
T'heir Literary Productions 




New York 

All rights nsencd 


Set up and electrotyped. 
Published February, 1928. 





ADOLESCENCE Is still an enigma. Although the word 
designates a period of development recognized as of 
sufficient importance to be attended by state and reli- 
gious ceremony since earliest times, its nature, its 
boundaries, and its full significance have not as yet been 
satisfactorily established. The monumental work of 
G. Stanley Hall, though rich in suggestive detail, is 
condemned even more vociferously by those who have 
not read it than by those who have because of the fal- 
lacies of his method. And present-day scholars are 
uncertain whether to try to separate the wheat from 
the chaff, or to let his whole harvest rot in the barns 
and set out for fresh fields and pastures green. 

Those which beckon the most temptingly just at 
present are perhaps indicated by the rapid develop- 
ment of the test and measurement movement. And 
surely it seems more the part of wisdom to employ a 
carefully controlled technique to investigate adoles- 
cence than to ask adults what they were like during 
that period, or even to ask adolescents themselves. 
For if psychology has discovered any one thing, it is 
the fact that we cannot trust ourselves, either as wit- 
nesses of another's behavior or as apologists of our 

And yet the mental measurers have thus far unfor- 
tunately left unmeasured a large number of very 
important things; and the laboratory experimentalists 

vi " Preface 

have a long path ahead of them before they can pro- 
nounce with certainty concerning any period of human 
development. While these methods beyond a shadow 
of a doubt will eventually give us whatever of cer- 
tainty we may attain to, meanwhile it is my great 
pleasure to introduce in this country the author of 
the present volume, in large measure because of the 
method he employs. It is a method which in my 
opinion will supplement our source material most 
helpfully, and which will assist materially in furnishing 
a better understanding of what is going on in the minds 
and hearts of our young people. 

Dr. Oskar Kupky of Leipzig has seen the possibili- 
ties of this method and has made this preliminary 
study in religious development, a phase of adolescence 
which is perhaps the most striking, and which has 
already received some attention at the hands of such 
men as Leuba, James, and Starbuck. He has mar- 
shaled his data masterfully, not only analyzing differ- 
ences between his subjects but also following the 
growth of individuals, thus furnishing a genetic con- 
tribution of no mean value. 

One of the most obvious limitations of the method, 
one which Dr. Kupky clearly recognizes, is that a 
selected group is studied. Not every one pours his 
whole soul into a diary. In order to discover approxi- 
mately how narrow this selection is, I inquired in four 
classes of educational psychology, a course required 
here of juniors who are preparing to teach, how many 
had kept or do keep diaries of the personal sort, jour- 
nals in which they confide. I had expected to find that 
perhaps three or four out of a hundred thus recorded 
their inmost feelings. What was my amazement, 
therefore, to discover that, out of these 122 college 

Preface vii 

juniors, 63 or 60 per cent have kept or are keeping 
such diaries and that 21 per cent still do. So that, 
while we are dealing with a select group, it is one which 
at least comprises no inconsiderable portion of our 
college population. I trust that the value of this work, 
therefore, will be recognized, as the author suggests, 
as a contribution to the psychology of adolescence, and 
that it will also bring assistance to those who are con- 
fronted with the vexed problems of religious adjust- 

I wish here to express my appreciation of the more 
than nominal assistance given in the preparation of this 
translation by Mr. F. C. Knapp, and also to thank 
Miss S. C. Clark who has read the manuscript with a 
view to including such changes as would more nearly 
represent the real meaning and spirit of the original. 
The rhymed and metered (I dare not say poetic) 
translations of the adolescent verses are ventured with 
the feeling that their spirit would thus be better con- 
veyed. In them I have kept close to the German, even 
declining to smooth out lines in translation which were 
a bit irregular in the original. 

W. C. T. 

Ann Arbor, Michigan 
June 30, 1927 














MENT 109 




THE psychology of adolescence is the youngest 
branch of German psychology, even younger than that 
of child psychology ; and the religious development of 
the adolescent is one of its most recent special investi- 
gations. This accounts both for certain merits and 
certain defects in this work. The main investigation 
. was brought to a close in 1922; the printing was de- 
layed, however, in consequence of the unpropitious 
economic circumstances following the war. This intro- 
duction is therefore added to classify what has since 
been done as well as to indicate the author's present 
understanding of the religion of youth. 

The beginnings of a scientific psychology of the 
child are to be found in the eighteenth century, when 
the great teachers, though they undoubtedly knew the 
child mind, set forth their experiences in a somewhat 
incidental fashion. The first systematic presentation 
we discover in David Tiedmann's Eeobachten uber 
die Entwicklung der Seeligfdhigkeiten bel Kindern 
(Observations of the Development of the Mental 
Capacities in Children) of the year 1787. Not till 
after a long interval did there follow, in 1856, 
R. Sigismund's book, Kind und Welt (The Child and 
the World). General psychology, which received 
considerable impetus from the researches of Wilhelm 
Wundt, in Germany, enriched child psychology but 
little. To be sure, the great master of experimental 


2 V Introduction 

psychology at the very beginning of his scientific labors 
had been, impressed with the importance of a historical, 
genetic method of studying mental life. And in his 
later work in animal and folk psychology Wundt did 
treat of these beginnings in the individual man, but 
only on a small scale. Still, for a long time there 
prevailed in scientific psychology the method of gen- 
eralizing observations; and not until later did inves- 
tigators learn to deal with mental irregularities. First 
viewed as a source of error, these came finally to be 
recognized as constituting a problem in themselves; 
as William Stern put it: "Mental differences have as 
much claim to psychological investigation as the usual 
data." Hence the justification of a special psychology 
of different age levels came to be recognized in theory. 
The investigation of the child mind began in the 
eighties of the last century, independently of the efforts 
of scientific psychology in the narrower sense; and 
since that time, child psychology has come rapidly for- 
ward. We know something of the psychology of the 
little child from birth to the beginning of school years, 
thanks to the observations of parents and relatives. 
After the pioneer work of W. Preyer in 1882 in Die 
Seele des Kindes (The Mind of the Child), there 
followed the valuable monographs of Clara and Wil- 
liam Stern, E. and G. Scupin, A. W. Shinn, K. W. Disc, 
and the comprehensive studies of W. Stern, Karl 
Buhler and others, as well as the investigations of 
Stanley Hall, Sully, and Tracy which have become 
generally known through translations. As a result of 
the investigations of Ernst Meumann, W. Stern, 
Aloys Fischer and their pupils, the mind of the school 
.child has come to be better understood. The psychol- 
ogy of the adolescent was elaborated much later, as 

Introduction 3 

may be shown by a comparison of the number of titles 
in the extensive bibliography which Stern furnishes in 
the first edition of his Difefentiellen Psychologic 
(Differential Psychology), 1911. The writings on 
child psychology, including superior children and dif- 
ferences in school conduct, all put together, number 
132; those on adolescents, however, only n, of which 
number but two are of German origin. Not till after 
the Great War did research turn in any greater degree 
to the psychology of youth. 

Like Rousseau, the philosopher Herbart, and 
Schleiermacher possessed a deep insight into the prob- 
lems of adolescence; and in the Erziehungslehre 
(Education), 1829, of Fr. H. Chr. Schwartz, who had 
been influenced by Schelling, there are together with his 
philosophical speculations numerous pertinent observa- 
tions which still hold. Yet for a century all these ideas 
have been carried no further, and even the knowledge 
of Stanley Hall's great work, Adolescence, is confined 
to a narrow circle. Yet there have been important 
social relationships, as I have pointed out in my 
Jugendlichen- Psychologic (Psychology of Ado- 
lescence), which really necessitated a scientific under- 
standing of the adolescent psyche. 

The carelessness and increase of criminality on the 
part of youth which become especially noticeable in 
time of war and revolution give rise to the question 
how far on the one hand the spiritual individuality 
of youth, and on the other economic and social con- 
ditions, may be considered as causes of the deteriora- 
tion of the younger generation. Through the so-called 
"youth movement," which appeared at the close of 
the century and had reached its climax before the war, 
the youth themselves had attracted the attention of 

4 Introduction 

science. The youth movement this emancipation of 
the younger from the older generation could come 
about only because the youth began to feel that they 
were no longer understood by their elders, and so there 
was again the necessity for a more scientific compre- 
hension of adolescent individuality. 

The first German studies of the psychology of 
adolescence seek to give a unified picture of the gen- 
eral nature of young people, based upon the experi- 
ences which are to be found in occasional or regular 
meetings with adolescent boys and girls. Doubtless 
through these works derived from the observations 
and experiences of juvenile court judges and neurol- 
ogists, of teachers and pastors, the knowledge of ado- 
lescent mental life was considerably advanced. On 
the other hand, however, it should not be overlooked 
that the "bird's-eye view" methods applied here may 
furnish erroneous results, for their basic observations 
are biased and many times cannot be checked. 

So these subjective proceedings must necessarily be 
supplemented by another and more rational method. 
As a hypothesis for an inductive psychology of adoles- 
cence, there is here offered the plan of making a sys- 
tematic observation of young people together with a 
collection and arrangement of the materials obtained 
in this fashion as well as a collection and interpretation 
of their spontaneous writings. Charlotte Biihler has 
followed this road; for at the same time that this 
investigation was being prepared, she was using the 
diaries of young people as source material in her sug- 
gestive book, Das Seelenleben des Jugendlichen (The 
Mental Life of the Adolescent), Jena, 1922. The 
number of diaries which stood at the disposal of Frau 
Biihler has mounted from three in the first edition to 

Introduction 5 

fifty-two in the fourth (Jena, 1927). Several diaries 
of boys and girls are being published which present 
valuable material for further research. In an essay, 
Tagebucher von Jugendlichen als Quellen zur Psychol- 
ogic der Reifezeit (The Diaries of Youth as a Source 
for the Psychology of Adolescence), I have offered a 
contribution to the methodical elaboration of this and 
similar literary productions placed at my disposal in 
their original form. Thus I have alluded to the 
boundaries which the diary methods have established. 
William Stern also in his book Anf tinge der Reifezeit 
(Beginnings of Adolescence), in which in a masterly 
fashion he has analyzed a boy's diary, emphasizes the 
fact that the significance and genuineness of adolescent 
notes can be evaluated only in relation with other data 
obtained from the same writer. 

The caution which maintains in Germany in the use 
of the general inquiry method, and which is also to 
be found in the earlier part of the present study, is 
slowly beginning to give way to another attitude. It 
is realized that by a careful procedure, suited to the 
nature of a young person, he can be made to give an 
informative account of himself. In expounding the 
method, W. Weigel, in his book Fom Wertereich der 
Jugendlichen (From the Value of Youth) has shown 
more clearly than any one else that the obstacles in 
the path to the inner life of youth can by these methods 
be lessened or removed. Weigel' s adolescent self- 
testimonies show how successful he has been in induc- 
ing boys and girls to observe their emotional life and 
to furnish a truthful disclosure of their experiences. 
The general questioning can be undertaken orally 
or in written form. An oral inquiry was made by 
Th. Voss, in his Entimcklung von religiosen Vprstel- 

6 Introduction 

lungen bet Folksschulkindern im alter von 5 bis 14 
Jahren (The Development of Religious Ideas in 
Volksschule Children from Five to Fourteen Years 
of Age). Voss kept a stenographic account of the 
statements of children concerning religious concepts, 
such as devil, angel, God, Jesus, Savior, and Holy 
Ghost. He found that "none of the children's reli- 
gious ideas were particularly spiritual in nature, but 
that they mixed concrete sensory ideas with spiritual 
or transitional forms" a conclusion which agrees 
with our own observations on the religion of the child. 
Voss rightly points to the dangers which threaten the 
religious development of the child when this conflict 
between the sensory elements of his belief world and 
his regular life experiences is discovered. In this he 
is supported by Giinther Dehn in Die religiose 
Gedankenwelt der Proletarierjugend (The Religious 
Thought World of the Proletarian Youth). Follow- 
ing the example of Masselons, Dehn gave the pupils 
in the Berlin Berufsschulen, who were recruited from 
the unskilled laborers and trade apprentices, three 
keywords (for example, God, help, death; God, devo- 
tion, nature), and asked them to write compositions 
about them. On the basis of data obtained in this 
way, ' augmented by the oral questioning of about 
thirty-six hundred boys and girls, Dehn reached this 
conclusion : 

"The picture that youth offers us is that of religious 
decay. Though this may not be true in every respect 
of the girls, it is of the boys. Not even the constant 
stream of youth who are interested in religion and 
who defend the church and faith in God can deceive 
us. The dissolution is a fact. It is shown clearly by 
jhe lack of religious development at every age level; 

Introduction 7 

it is shown by the decay itself, penetrating everywhere ; 
it is shown finally by the nature of the religious pos- 
session which, even when present, is pitifully inade- 

The Berlin youths whom Dehn studied did not 
differ essentially in their relation to the surrender of 
religion from those in the large cities of Germany 
containing a preponderantly Protestant population. 
Most of them have received at least six years of 
religious instruction in school besides about a year of 
parochial teaching in connection with their confirma- 
tion. When the results of religious instruction are 
so very scanty, there is reason to suppose that they 
have grown up in an environment in which all religious 
life is benumbed. For the deciding factor in the 
growth of religion in the individual's development is 
always his cultural environment. 

The religious thoughts of young people are never 
based exclusively on their own unfolding life; they 
always comprehend the form through its objective 
aspects. The individual, as a being in the process of 
becoming, can form concepts only in relation to the 
whole situation, past and present. It is the task of 
psychology as one of the cultural sciences to have these 
data established and presented without prejudice. 

Eduard Spranger, the leading exponent of this cul- 
tural psychology, in his Psychologic des Jugendalters 
(Psychology of Youth) takes the position that all 
sensory experiences are to be viewed as religious which 
to the subject disclose all that is highest in his relation 
to the world. This concept of religion, which he 
elaborates, is much broader than the one used in this 
-study. In general, however, there is considerable 
agreement in regard to the religion of the child and 

8 v Introduction 

the youth, and the manner in which .it develops. 
Charlotte Biihler's idea likewise coincides in all essen- 
tial particulars with the one here employed. The 
results of an unpublished investigation mentioned by 
Frau Buhler * on the religious development of adoles- 
cents based on their diaries, by F. Frisch and H. 
Helzer, also seem to confirm the main results of our 
own thesis. 

Even if I cannot justify the definition of religion 
given by Spranger, preferring as I do to designate as 
'Weltanschauung what for him is religion, I still admit 
that there is much in common in the two forms of 
experience. The normal child who grows up in the 
bosom of his family feels himself, mentally, bound 
closely to them ; he does not reflect, and so he is not 
yet fully conscious of his individuality. First, as a 
youth he discovers that he is an ego, that is, something 
quite by himself; and when he makes this discovery 
and reflects upon it, he has irrevocably lost the firm 
hold which as a child he possessed on his natural life 
circle. His whole youth, from then on, is filled with 
striving to gain a new hold so as not to be swallowed 
up in the stream of life. So long as the youth knows 
he is without a hold, he is ruled by strong feelings of 
aversion, and his inner insecurity also expresses itself 
in his outward demeanor. The more the opposition 
present in the world between the Should and the Is 
becomes known to the youth, the more he suffers under 
life's disharmonies, and there awakes in him the long~ 
ing for a First, a Highest, an Absolute, on which he 
can lean in all life's ups and downs, and to which he 
can hold fast. 

The child in his need flies to father and mother and 
1 Jena, 1927, p. 183. 

Introduction 9 

finds in them comfort and support. But in the adoles- 
cent years the boy and the girl lose touch with their 
parents. After this, if the young person continues in 
a friendly relationship with father and mother and 
teachers, he yet knows that they cannot all his life be 
his protection and support. Many a young person 
seeks in some friend the support and fulfillment for his 
own ego, of whose incompleteness he becomes more 
and more clearly conscious with increasing maturity. 
Still only too often he is disappointed in friends whom 
he seldom sees as they really are, but rather as he 
would wish them to be, and as they should be accord- 
ing to his notion. Those of a deeper nature feel 
lonely and thrown back upon themselves. And the 
mentally active then seek to better understand the 
world and thus give a firm hold to their own lives. 

According to his disposition and environment the 
experiences of the youth are either of a more religious 
or a more worldly sort. Of the worldly development 
of those who would not be called pious in the church 
sense we know very little at the present time; and a 
thoroughgoing investigation should be undertaken in 
this direction. Especially should the researches in 
adolescent psychology turn chiefly to such special inves- 
tigations. The works cited have accomplished their 
first task in drawing a general picture of the adoles- 
cent. Now, therefore, it is a question of following 
up the individual traits with greater care in order that 
upon a background of such experiences and knowl- 
edge the complete picture may stand out more and 
more sharply. The method of special research will 
have to adjust itself to the particular kind of traits 
to be studied. The investigations by E. R. Jaensch 
and O. Kroh on the ability of, adolescents, which have 

io Introduction 

sought to produce the pictures with hallucinatory 
clarity, have demonstrated what valuable conclusions 
on the "substructure" of adolescent mental life are 
still to be awaited from experiment. For the "super- 
structure" of mental life for the historical and cul- 
tural influences on mental phenomena experimenta- . 
tion comes less into the question; research here, as is 
frequently the case, must resort more to the methods 
of the cultural sciences. 

Our investigation of the religious development of 
adolescents, based upon their literary productions in 
view of the proportionately meager data, is, to say 
the least, a daring attempt. By drawing upon auto- 
biographies and finally upon a questionnaire, the 
course originally entered upon was partly abandoned. 
Still, the investigation may have proved that this road 
is traversable. I am convinced that research in the 
application of a method is more worth while than the 
mere theoretical construction of the method if its prac- 
tical proving has to wait. 


Leipzig, Schonefel. 
Nov. 28, 1927. 





ALTHOUGH the religious development of youth is 
.the subject here treated, the investigation may be 
regarded primarily as a contribution to the psychology 
of adolescence. This term probably needs no special 
definition. We understand an adolescent to be a grow- 
ing young person of from fourteen to twenty-one 
years of age that period during which a normal indi- 
vidual is ceasing to be a child and is maturing into a 
man or woman. 

Since we are here concerned with various problems 
in the psychology of religion, we must first ask our- 
selves what we mean by the term religion. At the out- 
set we admit that it is impossible to give a satisfactory 
definition. At the psychological congress at Geneva, 
Leuba endeavored to present a survey of all the vary- 
ing definitions of religion; but even such detail cannot 
really be called comprehensive or exhaustive; religion 
will always be defined in as many different ways as 
there are attitudes toward it. 

If, however, we try to be as impersonal as possible 
in our judgments, it seems psychologically impossible 
to approach the religious life without taking some posi- 
tion. For Jhe purposes of the present investigation, 


14 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

therefore, we need do no more than set forth the 
essence of religion as it is herein understood. 

Religion, by its very nature, is the experiencing of 
a reality of a being which, in contrast with the 
reality perceived by the senses the natural being 
comes to be known as something "entirely different." * 
This "entirely different" something at the same time 
is recognized as a thing "mightily effective" by which 
the natural being is ordained. And finally this "entirely 
different" something is experienced as the "highest 
good" to which all other goods are incomparably 
inferior. This highest power and highest good, which 
comes to be known as something "entirely different," 
is God. 

Some neuter word might better be used, because to 
the expression "God" there clings an anthropomorphic 
element not found unqualified on the higher levels of 
religious experience. Although Scheler a writes that 
"we may speak of religion only when its object bears 
divine, personal form," the term "personal form" does 
not appear to us applicable in every case. God can be 
experienced as completely formless; and an extremely 
high level of religion is recognized by Ekkehart a who 
thinks that a complete unity of God and man cannot 
exist so long as there is a place in the depths of the soul 
for any image at all! The mystics speak of the "soul 
depths" in which God is experienced. This expression 
contains the important psychological suggestion that 
we are concerned in religion with a process a mental 
attitude which presents considerable difficulty to the 

.When religion is understood as "the feeling of 

1 Otto, p. 28, writes of the "Ganzandere." 
a Scheler, p. 535. 
* Ekkehart, p. 79. 

The Psychology of Religion 15 

direct dependence," then it is to be noted that religion 
is not merely feeling. And since Schleiermacher has 
somewhere defined religion as the "contemplation and 
feeling of the universe," we may further object in that 
with the thinking and feeling an element of the will is 
indissolubly blended. Religious attitude is a complex 
mental structure which resists reduction into its con- 
stituent parts. If, however, an analysis is attempted, 
it is always at the expense of the real, meaning of 
religion; or, as is more often the case, the analysis 
exhausts itself with the secondary elements of the 
spiritual life. 

Careful consideration discovers the religious experi- 
ence, as it were, in three strata: the inmost stratum or 
the real core is the imageless, formless experience of 
God. As the second stratum there appears the embodi- 
ment of this experience, the beholding of God in a 
definite role or form, for example, as Lord or as 
Father. Finally, the third or outer stratum is the pic- 
turing of God as some one or some thing that has 
actually been seen. 

Never can the spoken word or religious judgment 
reveal adequately the inner core. Those attributes 
seem most meaningful which remain negative in form 
and describe God as inscrutable, infinite, ineffable, 
supernatural, and supra-mundane. The religious man 
will perceive these attributes of God not as negative 
but, because of his own inner life experience, as posi- 
tive, referring as they do to a more exalted condition 
than their opposites. On the other hand, it may be 
said that the unreligious man or the person not yet 
ripened for religious experience by such external 
means as articles of faith .will not attain to any real 
conception of God if he does not already possess a 

1 6 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

bent or readiness for it. It is a true saying that if you 
do not feel it, you will not acquire it. To cite an 
analogy : one will not attain musical feeling and under- 
standing by listening to the most finished production if 
he does not already possess in himself a talent for 
music. Just so, the knowledge of God has by no means 
meant the experiencing of God, even though the latter 
may be aroused or awakened by the former. 

Religion cannot be analyzed into the associated 
mental elements of feeling, perception, thought, and 
will as if into closed and independent compartments. 
Even less can it be traced back genetically from the 
more elemental conscious states characterized by strong 
affective elements such as "timidity, shyness, anxiety, 
fear, worry, hope, a feeling of weakness and insuffi- 
ciency, or astonishment and wonder." " Even fear and 
astonishment can never be transformed into religion. 
These are merely occasions or stimuli through whose 
agency the previously latent religious consciousness is 
released. Those who investigate the religious develop- 
ment of man can, therefore, never consider it their 
task to explain religious experience by attempting 
to derive it from simpler mental images and associa- 

Here we can do little more than sketch the religious 
attitudes in their connection with other mental proc- 
esses and define and describe some of the peculiarities 
of each. In so doing, the stimuli giving rise to the 
religious life and the influences promoting and limiting 
it, as the individual experiences them in his environ- 
ment, must be established; and their significance must 
be evaluated in order that their tendency and inner 
structure may be distinguished all the more clearly. 

Jahn, pp. 136, 138. 

The Psychology of Religion 17 

Thus, somewhere along the road of careful analysis 
and comparison of the given phenomena we hope to 
arrive at an understanding of the religious develop- 
ment of adolescence. 

Like other American investigators who belong to 
the waning Stanley Hall school of psychology, E. D. 
Starbuck, in his investigation of the religious psychol- 
ogy of adolescence, employed the statistical method. 
Starbuck is well aware of its weaknesses and disad- 
vantages. He even cites special difficulties with which 
one has to reckon as follows : 6 Most persons have lit- 
tle power of introspection, and their memory of past 
events is imperfect. At best, the descriptions of subjec- 
tive events are poor accounts of what has happened. 
Finally, in the questionnaire method the personal equa- 
tion of the investigator is certain to enter into the 

It cannot be said that Starbuck completely overcame 
the difficulties mentioned. At the outset, so far as the 
answers which he receives from his questionnaires are 
concerned, there is no possibility of testing their 
dependability; and though Starbuck places full con- 
fidence in the statements, that is no proof that they 
are objectively true, even assuming that his subjects 
possessed the desire to give true reports and were free 
from the common weaknesses of vanity and the desire 
to be interesting. Whoever is not trained in the tech- 
nique of introspection will never be able to furnish 
scientifically useful material for the investigation of 
mental processes so intimate as those of the religious 
life. Naturally, introspection of religious experiences 
is, in the main, defeated by the limitations of intro- 
spection as a method. At the moment when a religious 

6 Starbuck, p. 13. 

1 8 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

experience is being observed, it loses its originality and 
is changed and modified by consciously attending to it. 
A religious experience can be fully perceived only when 
it has passed, is contemplated from memory, and is, as 
it were, reconstructed. Starbuck did not sufficiently 
allow for the usual incapacity for such retrospection 
or the remodeling and omissions of past events, which 
are due to the fundamental nature of the memory 

As to the manner of expression of those who answer 
the questionnaires, W. Stahlin 6 has properly pointed 
out that, given the spiritual forms of a religious organ- 
ization, the subject almost always assumes a stereo- 
typed religious manner of thought and expression; 
Starbuck 7 himself refers to the common forms of 
expression in cases of conversion. This condition all 
but excludes an unprejudiced description of the nature 
of one's own earlier inner life. 

Every questionnaire, be it ever so skillfully drawn 
up, exercises a suggestive effect on the reader, even 
though it is due to no more than the focusing of the 
attention with particular force on the matters with 
which it deals. The best thing that can be said for 
questionnaires will always be that at least the answers 
are objective. But the inner experience, the essence of 
the mental process, the scientific investigation of which 
is of main importance, is slighted. Let it not be said 
that the mass of observations and the conclusions 
drawn from voluminous material can compensate for 
the defects of single answers. Agreement of answers 
reveals, as Binet once remarked, at times only the influ- 
ence of a constant error. 

a Archiv. f. Ges. PsychoL, XVIII, p. 5. 
7 Starbuck, p. 368. 

The Psychology of Religion 19 

The experimental method may be even less well 
adapted than the questionnaire to the investigation of 
religious development for, as Stern and Kriiger pointed 
out, an experimental situation may have an influence 
upon the natural course of that development. What 
I. Schroteler, 8 and other authors quoted by him feared 
in studying the religious life of the child is quite as 
applicable to the adolescent; namely, that a certain 
freshness and originality would necessarily be sacri- 
ficed. Furthermore, one cannot avoid the considera- 
tion that the pumping method of inquiry has ethical 
limitations, and that it is overstepping the authority 
jpf the school if it compels young people either to expose 
their most personal inner thoughts or else to deceive 
the teacher. But if the questioner (it need not always 
be the teacher) abandons the attempt to press into the 
inner core of religious experience and contents him- 
self with external secondary phenomena, which will 
usually be the case, the scientific value of the investiga- 
tion is correspondingly lessened. 

In contrast with the questioning methods, the col- 
lection and interpretation of spontaneous expression is 
probably more dependable, even if it does not at first 
give that impression of scientific exactness, which is so 
engaging in the statistical method. The source mate- 
rial for the compilation method grows partly out of 
observations of parents, teachers, and pastors; so only 
a reasonably modest disclosure of the religious atti- 
tude of youth can be gained through this particular 
kind of observation. The reason for this lies in the 
fact that a youth cannot be observed apart from his 
social environment as can a baby; furthermore, the 
youth in religious matters is very shy in the presence 

8 Schroteler, p. 72. 

2<3 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

of older people, especially when he no longer agrees 
with their religious opinions. 

A great deal of material derived from introspection 
is scattered through autobiographies and autobio- 
graphical romances. In the psychological evaluation 
of these sources, the time factor is always to be taken 
into account: the greater the distance in time of the 
narrator from the incidents described, the more incom- 
pletely they are reconstructed, for later attitudes 
toward the world and life will tend to give a new inter- 
pretation to earlier experiences. Thus, for example, 
one can trace Feuerbach's influence on Keller in 
Griinen Heinrich in the description of the latter's 
childish faith. Attempts to justify his attitude or to 
consider the whole life from the viewpoint of the 
kindly guidance of God, which are made by the writer 
of the autobiography, warn us to employ caution in 
working with these sources. 

After the autobiographical material, in which the 
time factor is always to be especially considered, come 
the spontaneous utterances of children and adoles- 
cents, which as a rule exhibit a much higher degree of 
originality. We possess excellent original material 
concerning young people in the form of letters, diaries, 
and poems. Obviously the value of these "sources of 
the first rank" will be the greater, the more coherent 
the single utterances are in themselves; the ideal case 
is that in which we can group together all possible 
utterances of an individual's religious life. Several 
such individual developments placed side by side and 
compared with each other will put us in a position to 
work out on the one hand the general character of 
religious development, and on the other the variability 
in the possible types. 

The Psychology of Religion 21 

But before the discovery of existing similarities and 
the formation of types, the material must be sifted 
and interpreted. In the autobiographies, religious 
experiences of adolescence are often already inter- 
preted and arranged sometimes even by the subject 
himself, which is generally to be considered depend- 
able. This interpretation and arrangement of religious 
experiences, however, is often determined, as has 
already been suggested, by the later attitude of the 
autobiographer toward the world. And in the diaries, 
letters, and poems of youth, religious experience is not 
restricted to its primary, immediate form. The writ- 
ten report itself means an interpretation and arrange- 
ment of original religious experiences. Still in many 
ways the youth who is reporting his experience is 
under its immediate influence. If it is represented and 
in a certain way rationalized at the time of transcrib- 
ing, this does not mean that the writer's attitude may 
not change one way and another as time goes on. 
Though the material contained in the literary products 
of adolescence has the advantage of greater originality 
and honesty, its collection, winnowing, and interpreta- 
tion, on the other hand, present greater difficulties than 
does preparing the matter preserved in the autobiog- 

The present investigation depends mainly on the 
psychological study of such material as is contained in 
the diaries, letters, and poems of adolescents. A glance 
at the extant literature of the field shows that rela- 
tively little of such material has been published or 
worked over. The literary productions mentioned in 
the following pages were placed at my disposal in 
manuscript form by friends. Some of the authors are 
well known to me personally; and in the case of the 

22 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

literary productions of the others, there is no basis 
for doubting their honesty. The manuscript material 
is composed of the following items : 

1. Diary notes of a religious nature by A (girl pupil in 
an institution of learning, later a student), 12-23 y rs - 
of age, p. 46ff. 

2. Diary (complete) and poems by B (pupil in a semi- 
nary for teachers, later a teacher), 15-23 yrs. of age, 
pp. 49ff., 1151. 

3. Diary notes of a religious nature by C (first attending 
a seminary, later a student of philosophy), p. u6ff. 

4. Diary (complete) of D (first seminary student, later 
a teacher), 18-21 yrs., p. n8f. 

5. Religious confessions of E (20 yr.-old officer), pp. 60, 

6. Poems of F (first attending a seminary, later a student 
of philosophy), 18-20 yrs., p. I2of. 

7. Religious confessions of G (merchant), 21 yrs. 

8. Religious confessions of H (candidate for degree in 
philosophy; earlier, gymnasium student), 27 yrs. old. 

9. Letter of religious nature by J (merchants' appren- 
tice), 16 years old, p. 86f. 

10. Poems of K (gymnasium student), 18-20 yrs. old, 
pp. 97ff., 121. 

11. Poems of L (a seminary student), 17-19 yrs. old, p. 

12. Diary notes of M (gymnasium student), 18 yrs. old, 

p. I22f. 

13. Poems of N (gymnasium student), 16-18 yrs. old. 
Autobiography of N, 18 yrs. old, p. I23ff. 

1/jf. Poems of O (gymnasium student), 17-18 yrs, old, 

p. i25f. 
15. Diary (complete) of P (a seminary student, now 

M.D.), 16-17 y fs - old, P- I28f. 
1 6. Diary (complete) of Q (pupil in a higher school for 

girls, later educator and teacher), 14-29 yrs. old, p. 


The Psychology of Religion 23 

The literary productions cited are, of course, of 
unequal value in furnishing a knowledge of the reli- ' 
gious development of adolescence. The religious con- 
fessions (of E, G, and H) in their originality and 
honesty, resemble the testimonies contained in auto- 
biographies. In the youthful verses religious experi- 
ence is frequently less apparent than the aesthetic, and 
the poems are often more significant for the latter than 
for the former. The religious peculiarity of adoles- 
cents appears most directly in their diaries. The 
youth who in distinction from the child, is becoming 
conscious of his peculiar, unique being, and likewise 
feels himself much alone, seeks to conquer this loneli- 
ness by a close companionship with a "thou." Among 
adults he finds no proper understanding of his needs; 
the friend whom the youth seeks often disappoints 
him; therefore he creates for himself in his diary a 
sort of "thou-substitute" ! In the diary the writer 
expresses himself unreservedly and honestly at least 
he usually entertains the desire to do so. The fact 
that many a youth has employed a secret code shows 
how much trouble he has taken to keep the diary 
exclusively for himself. 

Besides those who feel lonesome, who, as in the 
case of the diary of a young girl published by Char- 
lotte Biihler, "absolutely cannot help keeping a diary," 
there are young authors who keep one entirely from 
force of habit, sometimes pedantically, solely for the 
purpose of rescuing daily events from oblivion. Diary 
keepers of this sort usually care nothing about keeping 
their notes secret; on the contrary they are often 
inclined to share them with other persons. The hand- 
vpritten diaries serving as a basis for the present inves- 
tigation, like the one published by Charlotte Biihler, 
belong to the first mentioned type. The authors 

2*4 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

wanted to write only for themselves, not for others; 
and they wanted to record their reactions to every- 
thing which strongly affected their inner feelings and 
which they could not express in any other way that 
satisfied them. 

The present treatment does not rest upon com- 
prehensive material which characterizes all adolescents 
alike. Those youths who put their experience into 
writing represent an entirely definite type generally 
distinguished by theoretical, contemplative interests, a 
type which we may designate as "literary" in contrast 
with those of a more practical turn of mind. Whether 
the religious development of both types runs the same 
course will have to be shown by future investigations. 
Further, the young people whose religion we are here 
reporting belong to a certain social status; with the 
exception of E, G, and J, they are students in higher 
institutions of learning, and all profess Protestantism. 
Thus the present circumscribed study must be consid- 
ered as representing merely a first attempt, which 
must, however, be ventured. Although a collection 
of further materials is being made, perhaps the present 
treatment, if it is published, may on its part contribute 
to enrich the collection of matter and become the occa- 
sion for further investigations, that from the observa- 
tion of the religious development of these adolescents 
the religious development of adolescence may stand 
out more clearly. In this presentation we wish to be 
mindful of the fact that a monograph implies an arti- 
ficial abstracting and emphasis of a part of a whole; 
the danger of forgetting the whole for a part we shall 
try to avoid by always considering the religious devel- 
opment of adolescence in its dependence upon the 
whole mental development. 

The Psychology of Religion 25 

If we earlier cast any aspersions upon the statistical 
method, we did not mean that it was to be denied 
any value at all, but only that the biographical method 
must first show the probable course of the develop- 
ment; the comparative biographical method must 
emphasize the inner differences within the single types 
of development. Then the statistical method can 
undertake the testing of the results which have come 
from the biographical inquiry. In accordance with 
this principle, the individual's development has always 
been chosen as the starting point in this investigation. 
But first of all for the testing and confirmation of the 
results, the suggestive material which is to be found 
in Starbuck's Psychology of Religion is drawn upon; 
further, statistical findings as presented by Stanley 
Hall, Weigl, Lobsein, and Lau are used in similar 
manner. Finally, the results are also cited of an in- 
quiry among fifteen- and sixteen-year-old girls in a 
higher school in Leipzig, which was prepared as an 
, appendix, the value of which, meager though its results 
are, I find to lie in the fact that it shows a cross 
section of the development of a certain age and in a 
certain environment the large city. 


IN order that the religion of the adolescent may 
be more clearly characterized, we shall compare it with 
the religion of the child. When we speak of the 
religion of the child, we mean only a preliminary stage ; 
for our observations will teach us that we may not as 
a rule speak of a child's religion in the sense indicated 
in the introduction ; rather we are dealing with a first 
step only, of what we, borrowing from Scholz, will 
call "religion in its fullest sense." Religion is not 
inborn in the child, as the nativists maintain; nor is 
it acquired from his environment, as the empiricists 
think. The religious nature of a child will unfold 
only if the environment does not prevent this unfold- 
ing; and religious influence alone will not make a child 
religious, if he is -not disposed to it from the start. 
Heredity and environment must work together, "con- 
verge," if religion is to develop in a human being. 
If we observe that the child's world of religious ideas 
takes a certain stamp from the community environ- 
ment, and further, that the child accepts the religious 
ideas and dogmas of his environment, this does not 
prove that conjointly with it an inner adaptation or 
comprehension must necessarily arise through the cen- 
tral personality a real "experience with God." 

However, the most favorable conditions for the 
development of the religious disposition in young per- 


The Religion of the Child 27 

sons we may assume to be present when a child is 
descended from religious parents and grows up in a 
strictly religious environment. If a child is to have 
any religion at all this religion must be able to develop 
where father's and forefathers' influence is strongly 

Karl Philipp Moritz grew up, as he tells us in his 
autobiographical novel, Anton Reiser, under just such 
favorable conditions. If we take the religion of the 
boy, Karl Moritz, as a significant case of childish 
religion and really seek to understand it, we may also 
expect to establish certain general characteristics of 
the religion of the child. Moritz tells how the little 
Anton Reiser grew up in pietistic circles and was early 
acquainted by his father with the teachings and views 
of French Quietists. At nine the boy was reading a 
book that treated of an "early fear of God," which so 
"strongly affected his whole soul that he formed a 
firmer resolve to be converted than most adults do." 
At this time the boy literally obeyed everything that 
he read in the book about "prayer, obedience, patience, 
regulation, and almost considered every unnecessarily 
quick step a sin." With his parents he sang Madam 
Guyon's songs (in their German translation) and 
learned them by heart. They possessed so much that 
was "soul-ravishing," "such an inimitable tenderness, 
such a gentle twilight in their recital," that they 
exerted an indelible influence on Anton's heart. 1 The 
frail and neglected boy consoles himself in his forlorn 
condition with a "song of soul-outpouring and of sweet 
annihilation before the Source of Being." 

The father puts into the boy's hand a book by 
Madam Guyon directions for inner prayer. Now 

1 Moritz, p. 30. 

28 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

the boy sits for hours with closed eyes, just as his 
father did, in order to perceive God's voice in his 
heart. Partly compelled, partly voluntarily, the child 
imitates the religious manner of his environment ; does 
he adopt the religious content in all its depth and sub- 
jectivity? Anton soon reaches a confidential inter- 
course with God; and the nature and manner of this 
intercourse is significant for the child's religion. The 
boy speaks with God "as we speak with our equals," 
but he would become quite petulant with Him "when 
a toy was broken or a wish frustrated. He would 
exclaim, "Can't I be granted even this little thing?" 
The child cannot by his very nature appreciate the 
incomparable sublimity of Him whom he approaches 
in prayer. 

Another sign of childhood piety which we observe 
again and again appears at the same time self-seek- 
ing. The child in his weakness must be a little egoist 
if he wishes to achieve in the world; and thus the 
child's religion is thoroughly ego-centric. To him 
prayers are only a means by which he tries to procure 
for himself relief or pleasure. Little Anton learned 
from his books that all childlike desire and happiness, 
all jumping and playing are sinful. Yet he was not 
able entirely to suppress all his genuine impulses for 
movement and play. By chance he finds a wheel- 
barrow, and takes the greatest delight in pushing it 
about the garden. The consciousness of his sin 
awakes, and Anton tries to appease it. And again, 
the way he does this is delightfully childlike. In 
Madam Guyon's writings he has read much of the little 
Jesus, "that He was everywhere and one could go about 
with Him constantly in all places." The diminutive 
causes Anton to represent the little Jesus to himself 

The Religion of the Child 29 

as a little boy. As he has confiding intercourse with 
God, the Father, just so he establishes a similar con- 
fiding relationship with the Son. He plays with Him 
as with an equal, puts Him into the wheelbarrow and 
with touching diligence pushes Him about in the gar- 
den until exhausted. "Thus finally he came to look 
on this as a sort of service to God and no longer con- 
sidered it a sin" 3 to push the wheelbarrow with the 
boy Jesus a half day at a time. The outstanding char- 
acteristic of the child's religion is to be found in this 
incident: he represents to himself objects of his faith 
clearly and anthropomorphically ; God the Father, 
Jesus, and the angels are people of the sort we are 
accustomed to know in daily life. 

A new world opens up to Anton Reiser when he 
becomes acquainted with the Graeco-Roman theology; 
"with keenest appetite and with true rapture" he reads 
the stories of Troy, the voyages of Ulysses, and 
Fenelon's Telemach. Since he was not expressly told 
what was poetry in it, he is soon inclined "to accept 
as true the stories of the heathen gods with every- 
thing that went with them." a And here is another 
significant thing about the child's religion. As a rule, \ 
without criticism and without doubt, he accepts all the ! 
religious conceptions which are provided him by his f 

The foundation for this credulity had been laid 
early in Anton Reiser. From his second and third 
years he recalled the torments of hell he has suffered 
from the tales of ghosts and devils told him by his 
mother and aunts. This horror fostered in the child 
was further strengthened by the fear of thunder 

2 Ibid. t pp. 33-34. 
3 Ibid., p. 35- 

30 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

storms. "His only refuge at such times was to fold~ 
his hands as quickly as he could and not to unfold 
them until the storm was over." And Anton imagined 
death as a ghost. His mother's expression that 
"death sat on a dying person's tongue" was taken 
literally by the boy; and once when a relative died, 
he looked into his mouth, to discover death on his 
tongue, perhaps like a small black person/ 

One can always observe in the child's religion the 
distinguishing characteristics of the figurative, mytho- 
logical element, which we notice even in young Reiser's 
world of faith drawn as it is from sensory impressions. 
Gottfried Keller in Griinen Heinrich tells how in earlier 
childhood he had thought of God as a golden weather- 
cock glistening in the evening sunlight, later in the 
form of a tiger which he had seen in a picture book. 
Friedrich Hebbel and Otto Ernst report that to them 
God was originally identical with their father. As a 
rule, God is represented as a friendly old man. "The 
dear God is good. I could just squeeze him," said a 
three- (?) year-old girl. Love and omnipotence afe] 
the essential characterictics which distinguish God. 
Six- and seven-year-old children mostly have concrete 
ideas of His appearance. "God has a long white 
beard" probably borrowed from the idea of Santa 
Claus "He has a blue cloak," "He is tall reaches 
from the sky to the earth." Like God the Father, 
Jesus the Christ child is thought of as clothed in white. 
Angels, Santa Claus, and Knecht Rupprecht are other 
celestial forms. As a rule, the child leans toward ! 
polytheism. Heaven is thought of as a castle or a 
gorgeous city. An eleven-year-old girl reports, "In 
Heaven everything is gold and silver," "The dear 

4 ibid., p. 43. 

The Religion of the Child 31 

God looks around out of his golden window, and that 
is what the sun is," thinks a six-year-old girl. 

By the child Heaven is not looked on as beyond, 
something "entirely different," but only as a continua- 
tion, as a part, of the natural world. Death means 
only a change in one's place of sojourn. Our five-year- 
old Gudrun is still waiting, after months, for the 
return of his little brother who died. Once the child 
exclaimed: "I want to go to Heaven, too. There I'll 
take Ottfried's hand and run away from Heaven with 
him." The child cannot conceive of God as the high- 
est power any more than he can a beyond. In a 
thunderstorm, Gudrun suddenly begins to pray: "Oh! 
dear God, please make it stop thundering, or some- 
thing awful may happen." Then after it had light- 
ened once, the thunder stopped. The child ascribed 
the cessation of the storm to the prayer and he then 
said: "Perhaps the dear God Himself was scared," 
when it lightened again after the prayer. 

At times many children's ideas of God are so vivid j 
that they even think they see Him. Schreiber reports 
of a somewhat feeble-minded girl, that she confounded 
the pastor in the church with God. A beginner in 
school says: "I saw God when we lived in V. He 
shined into a room at our house." Obviously the little 
one considered the moon was God, a confusion which 
was also observed by Schreiber. Lay tells of his son, 
that at six he prayed to the moon. Our five-year-old 
Marian said to her weeping sister: "The moon hears 
it, he will tell the Christ-child, and He will tell the 
dear God." From similar expressions Stanley Hall 
assumes the revival of the race's primitive naturalistic 
forms of religion in the individual, "the rudiments and 
buds of every one of all the ancient religions are found 

The Religious Development of Adolescents 

in the child's soul." We renounce such speculations 
and see in the above-mentioned sayings of children only 
the expressions of a real myth-forming,! ancy, which is 
surely in many respects like the fancy of man in a 
state of nature. To try to explain the beginnings of 
a child's religion by the primitive religion of mankind 
on a biogenetic basis, as Stanley Hall, Starbuck, and 
other American psychologists have tried to do, is try- 
ing to substitute an x for a y, to explain an unknown 
something by another unknown. 

The observations quoted thus 'far have to do with 
children up to nine years of age. The remarks of 
eleven- and twelve-year-old boys quoted by Schreiber 
show that the religious ideas of these age levels are 
also full of images. The greater experience and the 
further perception of older children appear in the 
fact that they paint God's form still more clearly and 
sharply: "He is the oldest man in the world"; "His 
brow and cheeks have wrinkles, the hair of His beard 
has long ago turned white"; "He makes lights to 
shine upon the earth and when it rains He is sprinkling 
with his watering pots." Life in heaven is depicted 
in detail often bearing the closest similarity to life as 
it is related in tales of Schlaraffenland. It is worthy 
of notice that at this level there is a clear consciousness 
that one cannot really see God. Christ's words, "God 
is a spirit," are quoted as proof of this; however, God 
continues to be represented as visible. 

The ideas of God held by thirteen- and fourteen- 
year-old boys were also anthropomorphic boys who 
had had religious instruction in school-confirmation les- 
sons. "What they have to say of heaven and hell 
shows them to have great nai'vite, on a level of develop- 
ment which is not clearly distinguishable from that of 

The Religion of the Child) 33 

the class just below." With these words Schreiber 6 
condenses his judgment of the last age level of the 
public school. 

The thoroughly anthropomorphic character of chil- 
dren's ideas of God is established by the statistical 
findings which J. Weigl collected from a large number 
of Catholic school children. To the question : "How 
have you imagined the dear God?" 8 720 answers were 
handed in; of them 139 (19.3%) said, old man; 116 
(16.11%) ordinary man; 62 (8.16%) with splendid 
clothes; 58 (8.06%) Christ-child; 24 (3.33%) rich 
man. Other answers were similar: a king; like my 
father; a priest; an angel. Only a few children had 
thought of God as unlike man ; 3 as an eye in the 
triangle, 2 as heaven, 2 as a dove. 

As for younger, so for older children, there is no 
noteworthy difference between God and man, here or 
beyond. Eight-year-olds consider it possible to go to 
heaven in an airship; but thirteen- and fourteen-year- 
old boys, as Schreiber B reports, imagined "heaven on 
a high mountain" or "behind the clouds." Death 
means no complete turning away from this world; 
there are degrees of being dead. When our seven- 
year-old Marian heard of a cremation, she said: 
"When I am dead, I want to be buried; then one is 
merely impossible (unmoglich) ; but when one is 
burned up, one is quite dead." On the basis of similar 
observations, Hug-Hellmuth remarks: "To the child, 
being dead means a condition of sleeping, from which 
one can easily be awakened, or of being in a far-away 
place which one can leave at will." 7 

The child, filled with confidence in his expanding 

6 Schreiber, p. 57. 

6 Weigl, p. 12. 

''Imago I (1912), p. 287; cf. Imago III (1914). P. 94 (by Th. Reik). 


34 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

environment, accepts its religious teaching just as 
credulously and uncritically as he appropriates any 
other possession of culture. Henseling reports on the 
basis of his experiences that children believe in mira- 
cles up to the third year in school. Probably, how- 
ever, a belief in miracles lasts till the end of the school 
period; and Henseling is right when he says that 
doubt, when it appears in the child, has usually been 
imposed from without. When Schreiber describes his 
fourteen-year-old schoolboys as having doubts in 
respect to the nature of heaven and hell, we are prob- 
ably dealing with independent impulses of reason, 
whose awakening and strengthening is characteristic 
of the mind of the adolescent. 

The credulity of the child is shown not only in faith 
in miracles but also in the uncritical acceptance of all 
possible superstitious notions. Miracles and charms 
are jumbled about in the child's mind; in neither does 
he see anything impossible or unnatural. In general, 
I could establish the existence of superstitions in 
greater number in nine-year-old children. Younger 
children possess only a small number of superstitious 
notions, but girls in the last classes of the Volkschule 
are especially inclined to superstition. How numerous 
and widespread are superstitious notions at the present 
time, even among children of large cities, is demon- 
strated by the expressions of children quoted by me in 
Mittellungen des Fereins fur Sachsische Volkskunde* 
I have the impression that adults can be only partly 
held to account for the handing down and diffusion of 
child superstitions. As children's games are passed on 
for centuries from child to child, just so the children 
themselves seem to pass on ancient superstitions. And 

Bd. VII. 

The Religion of the Child 35 

to the question of the origin of certain superstitious 
notions, usually the answer would be : "The children 
say so," or "He (or she) told me." 

The credulous acceptance of religious tradition, 
from whatever direction it spreads, is the normal 
thing; only very seldom do younger children raise 
doubts. A familiar, oft-quoted example of it is that 
of six-year-old Goethe. As he tells it in Dlchtung und 
Wahrheit, the news of the Lisbon earthquake greatly 
affected the boy: "God, the creator and preserver of 
heaven and earth, whom the explanation of the first 
article of the creed has represented to him as so wise 
and merciful, had not shown Himself in any degree 
fatherly, in that He abandoned the just and the unjust 
to the same ruin. In vain the young mind tried to 
strengthen itself against these impressions, which was 
on the whole all the more impossible because the wise 
ones and those versed in the scriptures could not agree 
on how such a phenomenon was to be regarded." 

Ellen Key reports of her childhood: "I remember 
my hatred toward God when I heard at six years of 
the death of Jesus as caused by God's demands for 
atonement, and my denial at ten of God's providence, 
when a young laborer died leaving five children who 
needed him greatly." It seems to be socio-ethical con- 
siderations, which lead to the earliest religious doubts. 
Doubts of a purely intellectual sort, as cited by 
Schreiber ("that there are angels above I do not 
believe, for where there is not air they could not live") 
clearly point to succeeding stages of development. 

Finally there arise doubts, though of limited vital- 
ity, from the unfulfilled wishes and prayers of children. 
An example of this is afforded by the life story of the 
iron-wright, Bareiss, in Levinstein's Proletariers 


36 The Religious Development of ; Adolescents 

Jugendjahre. The dear grandmother of the boy thir- 
teen years old dies in spite of all his fervent prayers. 
"The next night was the first time he doubted God's 
justice and reproached Him in prayer," and when the 
preacher is reading the burial service, the boy thinks : 
"Surely this time the dear God made a mistake; or 
did He hear my nightly prayers at all?" H. A. 
Kriiger tells likewise in the Moravian juvenile story, 
Gottfried Kam-pfer, how his grandmother's death 
aroused most serious doubts about God and the world 
in his passionate boy mind. In the unfulfillment of 
lesser wishes and prayers a sullen child may break 
with God after the manner of little Anton Reiser. 
Indeed, similar dissatisfactions often come to the pray- 
ing child. In this he is like man in a state of nature ; 
for as with the primitive man, so with the child, as 
far as he prays in his own words and does not mechani- 
cally repeat learned sentences, the prayer has to do 
with the personal welfare of the one praying. Gott- 
fried Keller in Grunen Heinrich in an unsurpassable 
manner described the contents of such child prayers. 
Every one who associates with children can supply like 
examples. The child feels himself as it were the center 
of the religious world, about which everything revolves. 
In Glauben und Wissen, a story of real inner develop- 
ment, August Messer writes in this vein : "Thus it was 
in reality my own well-being that I sought in religion. 
The most powerful motive which drew me to God 
was concern for my early welfare and my soul's 
salvation." " 

If one conceives religion as the experience of God, 
as an "entirely different" and "higher" reality, 10 one 

9 Messer, p. 2. 

The Religion of the Child 37 

may not impute to many children religion (in its fullest 
sense!). Events by which a child is stirred to his very 
depths and is made conscious of his own weakness and 
the rule of a higher power are to be looked upon as ex- 
ceptions. Even though such cases are reported in auto- 
biographies, they are no proof to the contrary. In 
such autobiographies, it is generally a case of people 
who tower above the average. As there are youthful 
artists, why should there not be a religious child? On 
the other hand there is a possibility and no auto- 
biographer should be charmed against this danger 
that he may give a religious interpretation to the 
experiences of his childhood on the basis of his later 

Hebbel 11 tells in the story of his life unfortunately 
uncompleted, how when he was once sitting with other 
children in the Klippschule and a mighty thunderstorm 
was raging, the instructors cried out: "God is angry." 
"These words made a deep impression on me: they 
forced me to look down on myself and everything 
around me and kindled the religious spark in me." 
When the boy reaches home and sees the damage 
which the storm caused, he suddenly understands why 
his father always goes to church on Sunday: "I had 
become acquainted with the Lord of Lords ; His angry 
servants, thunder and lightning, hail and storm had 
opened wide to Him the doors of my heart. . . . 
And what had happened in me was soon apparent; 
for one evening when the wind was blowing hard down 
the chimney and the rain was pelting heavily on the 
roof, while I was being put to bed, the accustomed 
chatter of my lips suddenly was changed into a genuine 
prayer, and then the spiritual cord which until then 

11 Hebbel e Ges. Werke, VIII. " , 

38 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

had bound me inseparably to my parents was cut." 
In similar manner Goethe also tells of a storm 
which became his "intimate opportunity" to become 
acquainted with the "angry God about whom the Old 
Testament had so much to tell." Natural phenomena 
such as storms may often awaken in children an almost 
pre-religious fear ; if the child has already heard God 
spoken of, the fear will be transferred to Him as the 
cause of the storm ; but only in a few, especially gifted 
older children, primitive fright seems to result in 
religious fear and awe. 

General inquiries and statistical assembling of 
religious experiences of children will never produce 
results that are not open to objection. Thus Weigl, 
among others, asked Catholic school children the ques- 
tion: "From what cause or on what occasion did you 
first get an understanding of God?" It is entirely 
out of the question that children will remember such 
an experience after many years, even granted they 
have had it, and that it is not suggested to them by 
the question. If, after religious teaching at home, 
prayer at home, and church going, storms are discov- 
ered to be the fourth cause, there is a certain signifi- 
cance to the fact in so far as it is another indication 
that striking natural phenomena arouse in the child a 
feeling of dependence on superior powers to which he 
would otherwise have remained a stranger. The 
remark of Weigl, who writes in regard to a storm 
as cause, deserves notice: "That there is no influence 
oil the part of the persons asking the questions is 
shown by the fact that the 48 cases are divided fairly 
proportionately into 25 classes with two to four 
examples in each." 

The Religion of the Child 39 

In recapitulation we present again the following 
characteristics essential to the "religion of the child." 

1. The child accepts trustfully and uncritically the 
religious ideas of adults ; the child's religion is, to use 
Vorwerk's expression, "a religion of authority, custom, 
or memory" with as yet no independent and personal 
idea of God. 

2. God is always portrayed as mythological and 
symbolic; to the child God is always a man endowed 
with higher and more forceful powers ("Phantasy 

3. The child's religion is always of this world; 
the child is not yet able to grasp God as something 
"entirely different." 

4. The child feels himself as the center of exist- 
ence; but the experience of God as of the highest 
incomparable worth simply remains a stranger to him. 

The child's religion is therefore not to be designated 
as religion in the "fullest" sense, as we have used the 
term. In opposition to Kabisch, Vorwerk, and other 
theological authors, we are of the opinion that children 
can be called religious only in the rarest cases. If 
we deny the "child's religion" any real religious worth, 
the question of its significance in the religious develop- 
ment of the adolescent and the adult still remains open. 



THE religious training of young people has for 
centuries been carried on by the Moravians, the Piet- 
ists, and other sects with closer attention than in other 
churches. These sects early admonished the youths 
to take heed that they render a good account of them- 
selves. Even if the reports of these youthful sec- 
tarians are to be considered as special cases from the 
standpoint of the church, we must nevertheless include 
them in an observation of the course of the religious 
development of young people; these "special cases," as 
already mentioned, are more clearly described than 
those which develop normally. Furthermore, they 
show certain earmarks which are also characteristic 
of the "normal" course, and which are delineated with 
special clarity. And finally certain forms of develop- 
ment, which by these sects are considered the rule, 
also appear in the church where, however, they are 
then considered exceptions. We cannot do better than 
to study the different possible forms (types) found in 
the course of religious development in connection with 
the autobiographical novel of K. P. Moritz, who spent 
the years of his later youth in a religious environment. 

When the twelve-year-old Anton Reiser was com- 
pelled by his father's command to leave the beloved 
abode of learning, he was very unhappy as was shown 
not only in his daily life but in religious matters as 


The Progress of Religious Development 41 

well. "In church, where formerly he had been a pat- 
tern of reverence, he chatted all through the service 
with his fellows. ... He became a hypocrite 
toward God, toward others, and toward himself." At 
times Anton has spells of repentance. But the "life 
blessed of God," toward which he strove, does not 
return. He is always compelled to fall back into his 
sinful habits. "Then he began the process all over 
again, and thus wavered continuously back and forth 
and nowhere found rest and satisfaction, in vain grow- 
ing embittered over the innocent pleasures of his 
youth." Not until the end of adolescence did Anton 
recover his mental serenity. 

Examples of storm and stress, as Moritz reports 
them in his autobiographical novel, are to be found 
elsewhere in the lives of adolescents. The successive 
stages of religious development with their emotional 
disturbances and catastrophies are especially favored 
by those who strive to bring about conversion and to 
this end deliberately and systematically foster the con- 
sciousness of sin and guilt in young persons, as was 
and still is the case with Pietism and some other sects. 
So we find this form turning up again and again at 
different times. 

The letters of youthful Friedrich Schleiermacher 
and his sister Lotte, which they write from Gradenf rei 
and Niesky to their relatives, tell of a violent struggle 
toward conversion. In Plesz, the Schleiermacher 
brother and sister had come under Moravian influence ; 
the teaching of the natural depravity of man and the 
supernatural works of divine grace, as the Moravian 
brothers claimed to know they had been experienced, 
caused a seething ferment in their souls. At this time, 
seventeen-year-old Lotte writes : "My heart's restless- 

42 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

ness kept growing more and more. . . . One Sun- 
day, it was September 23 (1872) I fell into deep 
meditation earnestly considering what could really 
bring me the peace of mind for which I so deeply 
longed. Suddenly it seemed to me that these (the 
brotherhood) were the ones in whose midst one could 
get sustenance for the immortal soul, and far from 
outside temptations, approach nearer the great goal; 
at this thought an indescribably blessed feeling encom- 
passed me." In his autobiography Schleiermacher 
reports his own restlessness of spirit when with his 
sister he was received into the Moravian denomina- 
tion : "In vain I struggled for the supernatural sensa- 
tions of whose indispensability I was convinced by my 
every thought gained from my instruction concerning 
a future day of reckoning; of whose reality I was con- 
vinced by every sermon and every song, yes, every 
sight of these men so winning to one in_such a mood. 
But these sensations seemed to escape me only. Then 
when I thought I had caught a shadow of them, it 
showed itself at once as a product of my own fruitless, 
striving imagination." 

But yet, in Gradenfrei, Schleiermacher appears 
already to have experienced a sort of Pietistic awaken- 
ing. 1 Let us present one of Lotte's reports as a typical 
case of the quickly changing emotions in the days of 
youth; in it she tells z how she is "blessed and happy 
in the Savior" and "can associate with Him as a child 
with his father" ; but a revulsion occurs, "as if a cover- 
ing were suddenly torn from my eyes. I should think 
of myself as a lost, human child; yet my own righteous- 
ness made this difficult. Finally, however, when I was 

1 Meier, p. 61. 
3 Ibid., p. 67. 

The Progress of Religious Development 43 

forced to realize, that in spite of my virtuous conduct 
I was full of sin, I despaired not knowing what to do." 
Schleiermacher's teachers at Niesky had exerted them- 
selves to indoctrinate their pupils with the thought that 
"there is no more blessed lot than to associate with 
Jesus," as he says in a birthday poem of the year 1784. 
The result of these efforts is told in one of the boy's 
letters written to his sister when by chance he was 
enabled to partake of confirmation and the Lord's 
Supper (March, 1784). And a half year later another 
letter reports : "The Savior is never faithless, however 
often we are; but the more tranquil, the better, the 
more unvaried, the more peaceful and nearer heaven 
preferably actually there." Thus the sixteen-year- 
old is filled with longing for the beyond, although at 
the same time he is zealously pursuing studies in Greek 
literature. The calm, orderly life in the school pro- 
tected Schleiermacher from external conflicts, and thus 
his development remained a battle with his own nature, 
until later at Barby the youth's critical understanding 
triumphed over feeling and led to a break with the 
religious tradition of the brotherhood. 

Even more plainly than in Schleiermacher's religious 
development dissension and wavering appear in the 
case of the Swede, Brinkman, who at the same time 
attended the seminary at Barby. The ninteen-year- 
old Brinkman writes among other things in his diary, 
given in abridged form by Meier: "Tormented by lust. 
Pathetic prayer to the Savior." "I cannot describe 
how horrible I appear to myself, for I continually 
have the greatest loathing for all excesses of the sort. 
I was always, shamed by every virtuous friend . . . 
talked very simply with the Savior, who comforted me 
by his nearness. . . ." "At the Lord's Supper I 

44 The Religions Development of Adolescents 

felt my Savior's nearness much more clearly than I, 
poor dust, deserved or expected, and my heart grew 
warm with love for Him." a 

To a greater degree than is the case with Pietism 
and Moravianism the practice of conversion is culti- 
vated among Methodists and similar denominations 
who lend to the religious life of North America a 
special stamp of their own. Starbuck has dedicated 
the whole first part of his Psychology of Religion to 
the study of conversion; and likewise an extensive 
chapter in Stanley Hall's Adolescence treats of con- 
version; to how great a degree religious habits can 
influence scientific convictions is shown by the fact that 
both American psychologists consider conversion as 
"a natural, normal, common and necessary process 1 ' 
for the stage of development in which life moves from 
a basis resting on itself (autocentric) to a foundation 
whose center is laid elsewhere (heterocentric). 

How strong the influence of environment is on con- 
version is proved by the fact that only one-fifth of 
the cases investigated by Starbuck took place inde- 
pendently of outside influence. A spiritual state in 
the form of "consciousness of guilt or of sin" precedes 
conversion. Let a few significant expressions quoted 
by Starbuck* be presented here: 8 M 17. "I had 
experienced nothing but a great and unaccountable 
wretchedness." F 15. "I fought and struggled in 
prayer to get the feeling that God was with me." 
M 15. "A sense of sinfulness and estrangement from 
God grew on me daily." F. 16. "I had an awful 
feeling of helplessness."- These few examples, which 

. 3 Ibid.,, p. 184. 
* Starbuck, p. 6of. 

E M. and F. stand for male and female. The numeral indicates 
the age. (Tr.) ; 

The Progress of Religious Development 4$ 

can be multiplied many times from Starbuck's abund- 
ant material, show that the converted youthful Amer-i 
icans of our time under similar external incitement had 
experiences similar to those of Moritz, Schleiermacher, 
and Brinkman who grew up under pietistic influences 
in the eighteenth century. 

The sect known as The Exclusive Society of Religh 
ous Virtuosos or the Specifically Qualified, before the 
reception of new members, has to examine them as to 
their suitability ; the more suddenly and startlingly the 
moral-religious change of mind occurs, the more clearly 
recognizable it is. For this reason the sect favors 
the catastrophic course of development with its emo- 
tional disturbances, which reaches its culmination in 
conversion. On the other hand, the church, "the uni- 
versal institution for the saving of the masses," which 
like the state, as Max Weber says, claims that every 
child belongs as a member by birth, places a much 
higher emphasis upon conversion. Thus in these 
churches there is the possibility that more or less 
sudden changes which might be considered as being 
the essence of conversion, are not interpreted and 
explained as such. At times the religious awakening 
is connected with the confirmation or with the first 
partaking of the Lord's Supper. A Catholic woman 
says: "My brother was a model; after his first com- 
munion he was transformed." Starbuck 7 has the fol- 
lowing report of a young man: "When attending holy 
communion at sixteen, I was filled with a wonderful 
feeling and lifted up to a sense of duty. It was a 
spontaneous awakening within me." 

In a striking way Starbuck 8 compares the extremely 

Weber, II, pp. an, 222. 

7 Starbuck, p. 200. 

8 Ibid., p. 298. 

46 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

emotional mode of progress with that of an insect, 
which changes from the larva stage to that of the 
pupa and finally to that of a full-grown butterfly. 
Besides the "catastrophic" course there is another, 
which is recognizable by the fact that the religious 
person grows calmly and steadily, "as a tree which 
gains a little year by year; and when the process is 
completed, one can only say: "It was then a tiny 
sprout, now it is a sturdy oak." Generally persons 
whose development has a calm continuous course are 
able to report little of it. As an evaluation of the 
continuous course I am presenting a girl's diary notes, 
a critical judgment of which follows at the end. 

Case A. 

The girl is the only child of religious parents. 
Father a merchant in good circumstances. Protestant. 

1 2 1/2 years old: "Today I want to die. I lied 
again, and I have prayed so often for strength. But 
it will never be any different, I shall pray once more, 
and I already feel that tonight I shall die (she had 
a severe attack of dysentery), and if I do not die 
tonight, I shall commit suicide. First before I am 
dead, I shall quickly pray again. I remember how 
our principal was recently speaking of pardon for 
thieves. For if I live any longer, I shall have to lie 
again and again." 

141^ years old: "Now confirmation is over. The 
door has been passed, through which the child steps 
forth as an adult. Over my life's path is always to 
stand the motto which hung over my door : Be faithful 
unto death. . . . 

"Many serious words were said to me by parents, 
.aunts, and other relatives, and if I take them to heart 

The Progress of Religious Development 47 

they will help me to be able to fulfill my confirmation 
motto, and so enable me to attain the crown of life." 
A week later: "God help me so that my first Lord's 
Supper may be a blessing." 

15^ years old: "I wish I could take part once in 
a Christian conference ; it must be wonderful, thus for 
a week to speak only of one's Savior and hear Him 
spoken of as my dear father is now doing." Two 
days later: "I should so like to be first in the class. 
I wonder if that is called ambition. But I should so 
like to give my dear parents the pleasure. May the 
Lord help me, for without Him it will not happen." 
.Four weeks later: "I am being prepared for the 
entrance examination in C. I pray my Lord and 
Savior to help me in this significant turning point of 
my life." Five weeks later, after failing this examina- 
tion: "I did not pass the examination indeed the 
ways of God are wonderful. I am preparing for 
another school and if again I do not succeed, then I 
shall understand by that that the LORD has some- 
thing else in view for me." 

1 6 years old: in the new boarding school: "I get 
up at six o'clock, dress, converse with my God; then 
we have coffee together, then have family worship. . . . 

"I found a friend. She is a child of God, too. . . . 

"I like it here very well, because I am much under 
God's word and can hear so many really anointed 
speakers. ... 

"A week ago there was a storm here that lasted 
fully ten hours. Then God showed Himself again in 
his omnipotence and greatness. Thus children of God 
again recognized how great is the kindness of the 
Almighty, who has preserved all of us who love and 
know Him." 

48 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

17 years old: "He is called Wonderful! I am 
almost dying of joy! That is not caused by the air of 
spring alone. In my heart it is spring too. Yester- 
day's meeting with 'him' is a splendid answer to 

20 years old: "I saw the sea with laughing blue sky 
above it. I saw it enveloped in sea-mist, and when this 
lifted I saw it kissed by the crimson rays of the setting 
sun. LORD, how wonderful are Thy works! ... 

"I said 'No,' I have talked it over with God. I 
have no feeling for him at all. . . . 

"Now I am reading all sorts of things about the 
modern view of life." 

22 years old: "I am making myself thoroughly 
acquainted with commentaries of the New Testa- 
ment. .... 

"Much old stuff is disappearing from my beliefs, 
like the beginning of the Second Article." 

23 years old, after a severe illness: "Oh, if I did 
not have God!" 

In A's notes the influence of a godly environment 
is clearly perceptible; the noun (Lord) and the pro- 
nouns which refer to God, and further expressions 
like "child of God," "crown of life," show the con- 
ventional character of A's notes. In spite of that, 
one has the impression that a personal development 
of the writer occurred, a development, indeed, which 
has to overcome no very strong opposition. The 
steady, continuous course, as A's reports present it, 
does not recur in such purity in the material accessible 
to me. The doubts of one's own worth, as they 
appear in the beginning of development, disappear, and 
neither personal mishap (failing an examination), nor 
love experiences, nor intellectual doubts, nor illness, 

The Progress of Religious Development 49 

nor natural phenomena can so seriously disturb her 
that the calm course of development is interrupted. A 
third kind of development takes place midway between 
the catastrophic and the continuous courses ; it is illus- 
trated by 

Case B. 

B, the seminary student, later Volkschule teacher. 
Forefathers, Protestant emigrants. Parents, crafts- 
men, of deep piety, which, however, is never expressed 
in words. An earlier teacher gives this opinion of B : 
"melancholy, dreamy; no especially prominent capa- 
bilities. Internally strong nature, compositions show 
his original thoughts. No facility of expression. 
Conduct appears awkward; also many conflicts with 
ithe rules of the house are explained by this." As a 
hild B prayed every day and expected for himself 
&n especial interposition of God Himself; when this 
idid not follow during the confirmation nor at the 
partaking of the Lord's Supper, it had a certain sober- 
ing effect upon him. Notes from his diary: 

i$y 2 years old: "Again I feel miserable and 
wretched, I do not know what may be the reason. ... 
Lately doubts have come to me again followed by 
grievous questionings: Is there S God? What is He 
like? Then my character is altered in every respect; 
for before, when I meditated, it was easy for me to for- 
get myself. But now? I think I am going crazy. . . . 
Today there was a fearful storm. Did not sleep prac- 
tically all last night, but instead I reflected and medi- 
tated; almost became convinced that there is no God, 
or at least only a very severe one. I think I am about 
crazy. . . . Last night after long thought I came to this 
conclusion: I shall never be a regular Christian, for 

50 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

the reason so easily said and yet so momentous, that 
way down deep I believe that there is no God. How- 
ever I still believe. First an inner voice speaks to me ; 
secondly faith works a quieting effect on me. For 
example, I compare faith and myself to a wanderer in 
the desert who is lying half fainting on the road con- 
vinced that he has no longer a chance for rescue. Then 
he suddenly finds a stone with various marks which he 
does not understand, and yet he thinks : What other 
reason can there be for this stone than as a sign post 
to an oasis ? The half fainting one gains new courage, 
he gets up quickly and reaches his goal. Much like 
that is my faith constituted. I want to cease my 
melancholy meditations Oh, that I may succeed ! and 
believe in God, at one time so that, if there is a God, 
I shall not be entirely estranged from Him, and so 
that He will have to know my honest striving; at 
another time, because thus I shall lay my foundation 
for courage and endurance. Perhaps a way out will 
be found from the labyrinth of questions. My chief 
command is to be : Love thy neighbor ; let that be the 
love, the love of God, that I shall have. If nothing 
else comes of it, I shall at least hope for one thing, 
namely, that whatever I do, that may be done to me, 
whether it be good or evil. Let that be my reasonable 
service to God. ... 

"The melancholy meditation returns. For today 
I considered this and that and discovered to my despair 
that I no longer knew at all why I could write : There 
is no God. I have been praying after a long time to 
escape my doubts in some other way. To whom ? To 
the invisible God, who is still unknown to me and 
unrecognized, in whose existence I doubt and who, if 

The Progress of Religious Development 51 

He really exists, can be only a severe and zealous God. 
... I had prayed to the unknown and doubted Being, to 
give me a sign of which I might know whether the 
Bible and our faith were fancies. I had idled about 
my devotions and promised that if I were not discov- 
ered I would take it as a sign. I have as yet got noth- 
ing, but I have not yet reached insight; however, on 
the other hand, I have become calmer. ... I have come 
to God again. Have become calmer, and perhaps the 
time is not far off when I shall be completely reconciled 
with God and shall believe. My lessons in religion are 
bringing me to this point. I have vowed to myself that 
if I get a Very good' in industry and conduct, I shall 
understand from that that there is a God. My gift of 
thinking in religious matters, of composing, I want to 
use for church songs. I have chosen, for my next 
theme: 'Customary Folk Phrases, Characteristics of 
Secular Song Writers, and the Motives of their 
Poems. . . . 

"If this vexation still keeps up I shall go crazy. 
Again I have had so mean a view of God, that if there 
is a God, He must be ashamed of Himself." 

i $34 years old (after a bad school report): 
"Thoughts that I may not pass have come to me again. 
Prayed again today. . . . 

"Been to church. Confirmation. I was fearfully 
bored. God is a spirit ! God is life ! Life is na- 
ture! The only answer not arising from man to the 
question: 'What is God? What is God like?' Christ 
gave us. He says to the Samaritan woman : 'God is a 
spirit.' If God is a spirit, then that is not saying that 
God is any person. For if God is a spirit, Christ may 
mean by that that He pervades everything. Every 

2 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

breath of wind, every natural phenomenon, everything, 
even the smallest creature conceals God in itself. Now 
it will be said : 'Did not Christ represent Himself as the 
Son of (this) God, and can he say He is God's Son?' 
I say yes. For Christ, whom by our faith we can con- 
sider the omnipotent Savior working through his love, 
is the One who best conceived this Being God in nature. 
Now if God is nature, the greatness of His attributes 
is by no means obliterated; on the contrary, we can 
even better view them. If God is the all-pervading 
power, He can nevertheless be illumined by a spirit." 

1 6 years old: "God the Holy Ghost. . . . 

"As the third person of the triune Godhead, the 
Holy Ghost is revered by Christendom. I would not 
exactly say wrongly but yet unnecessarily. For can the 
spirit be a person in its own right, which proceeds 
from a person that we can think of only as a spirit ; can 
he be something existent ? I say no. God is a spirit, 
the Holy Ghost is His spirit. God's spirit is Holy; 
there is no Holy Ghost besides. Therefore God's 
spirit is the Holy Ghost. However, as with mankind 
there are not two persons present or imaginable, -we 
can probably think the same of God. God's being is 
the only spirit, therefore God's spirit is equal to the 
Holy Ghost; what is equal is not one and the same, 
but just equal. It may be said: God's spirit = the 
Holy Ghost. ... 

"But since there is no other person in the Godhead 
than Christ and God the Father, we may maintain 
that God's spirit not only equals the Holy Ghost, but 
by the term Holy Ghost only God's spirit can be 
meant, proceeding out of God the Father and God the 
Son; and besides God the Father and God the Son 
there is no other person, the spirit of the diune God 

The Progress of Religious Development 53 

must be one and the same with the Holy Ghost for 
reasons that permit no contradiction." 

i6j^ years old (after no notes had followed for 
half a year) : "A retrospect! I became characterless! 
I no longer had strength over myself to defy the 
devil, pleasure-seeking. I lived beyond my allowance, 
and since one sin grows out of another, misrepresented 
my expenses as in order ; consequently deceived my kind 
parents. I neglected my parents. With horror I have 
to admit to myself : I almost forgot my parents. For 
if I had always had their sacred image before my eyes, 
should I have got into debt?" "Now I have a letter 
ready for the magazine. Would to God, it (a story) 
may be accepted. A stone would be lifted from my 
heart. Dear God, cause it (the manuscript) to be 
accepted. I will give Thee, or if not Thee, then the 
poor, a good part of my small fee. Then I would pay 
my debt, enrich the treasury of our club, and give my 
parents joy at Christmas. Dear God, pray give me the 
strength not to yield this time. Strengthen that on 
which I am now placing my whole hope. Great Spirit 
in Whom I believe, Thou wilt not take it amiss if now 
and then my senses are confused and go astray. God, 
Thou madest me so! I act as best I can. Again, 
great Spirit : grant that my manuscript be accepted, and 
that I perhaps may get a little money." 


Art Thou God? 

Light Thou art that outshines sunlight, 

That above the stars doth flare, 

Life Thou art which Thou hast wakened, 

Nowhere yea and everywhere. 

Art Thou God? 

Art Thou God? 

54 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

Go into the silent darkness 
See what wonderworking's rife 
Underneath the snow's soft blanket, 
Gentle whispers, there is life 
There is God. 

17 years old: 

Beside the road in beggar's clothes 

An old man in the snow. 

I heard him weakly lisping: "God, 

God, bread!" I shared his woe, 

I stooped beside the gray old man, 

But he was cold and dead. 

But still I hear him call out: "God," 

And begging Him for bread. . . . 

"Now I have become calmer. My heaven-storming 
arrogance has been broken. My guiding star is to be 
just hard work. Spiritually I am still dead. To be 
sure, I pray, but only from prudence, not from faith. 
I can't help it if I dissect or have to dissect everything 
under the microscope and then can observe only germ 
and atom. Yet in spite of that have grown calmer. 

"What is the world? 
A gloomy game. 
What is the goal? 
Fortune and fame, 
And what kind of a hand 
Holds the power? 
The hand of Night. 

Say, Brother Wind, 
Whence comest thou 
And whither bound? 
Thou manchild, thou, 
Whence comest thou 

The Progress of Religious Development 55 

And whither bound, 

O Brother Wind. 

Thou dost know! 

Whether thou com'st from naught or no?" 

1 8 years old : 


Shall I pray for it? Thou wilt do it of Thine own accord 

I know 

But let me, for working with Thee I fancy 
I shall finish it. O truth be truth. 

World be real ! Delusion, thou nothingness be so in fact. 
Existence be truth, truth existence ! 

(To the 2 ist year there are notes like the following, 
which tell of weariness with life and show the religious 
strain not at all, or at least only slightly.) 

20 years old: "Now I feel that way again. Dis- 
satisfaction, disgust, indifference O insipid schoojboy 
life such a taste. If I could make an end of living, 
raging, writing I wonder if it will last like this. It is 
nothing but suffering." 

20J/ 2 years old (in a letter to his only love) : 

"You keep me very busy. You are decadent. High 
desires and little capacity finally you cannot help it. 
you are just a link in the great chain of happenings, 
which is continually paid out paid out, a chain ? Who 
knows. You have attained such a pretty skepticism 
so handsome underneath. Then why do you keep turn- 
ing up ? Would it not be better for you to disappear 
into nothingness? I wanted to live an ideal life. I 
doubt whether after the many defeats and apparent 
recoveries (apparent victories), a real recovery is pos- 
sible. What am I writing? I wonder if I am too weak 
for something definite, too cowardly for a last step 

56 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

into the bottomless pit The worst, most fearful thing 
in the world is willingness without the ability. I have 
thrown everything overboard, God first ; and yet I am 
afraid to pay over the rest." 

2i>^ years old: "Two souls in my breast. What 
shall I write on my banner? Death, no, captivity of 
love desire soul. Matthew 6, 24: No man can 
serve two masters. Then I will let the soul of my duty 
grow strong in the service of its grave and hoary mis- 
tress. Now I shall serve the one strict, severe goddess, 
Truth, or else her image, Science." 

(From about 22 years of age the notes become less 
frequent and shorter; they refer generally to experi- 
ences of an external kind. Descriptions of states of 
mind disappear, an external sign that a certain propor- 
tion has entered into his mental life. After the 24th 
year there are no more notes.) 

23 years old: "God will not let me fall. Then what 
have I to fear ? But if God does not preserve me, if I 
cannot believe in the victory of truth, why shall I not 
perish? In this case, dying is the only good deed that 
is to be thought of or desired; better to be extinguished 
than to live a false life My life will itself be a reve- 


Let us ever ascend On holy heights 

From peak to peak, We'll take our stand 

Wandering on With joyful hearts 

joyful to speak Survey the land 

And when again 

We descend to the vale ; 
May laughter and joy 

And song prevail. 

The Progress of Religious Development 57 

The course of B's religious development is especially 
rich in violent emotional experiences. These find 
expression in the diary in exclamations like "I am going 
crazy" when he was fifteen, and in the thoughts of sui- 
cide up to his twentieth year. But there is a significant 
difference between this and the catastrophic course 
which, in conversion, reaches a definite culmination in 
which tranquillity suddenly appears, and the convert 
has no realization of the agitation which may possibly 
set in somewhat later. B's development does not show 
this sudden transition from an experience full of strong 
emotion to calmness; instead there follows a gradual 
dying out ; the emotional agitations at twenty-one have 
lost something in severity and strength, until at about 
the twenty-fourth year tranquillity conies. The slowly 
growing conviction of security in God has become so 
strong that from now on proportion and steadfastness 
of the whole mental life are assured. The poem at the 
end of the notes with its thoroughly symbolical intent 
points to the lofty frame of mind of a steady spiritual 
growth. Since B's development shows evidences both 
of the catastrophic course and of the continuous, it 
must be designated as a mixed form. If we ask about j 
the underlying causes of the different forms, we shall.' 
find them in the differences of temperaments. A pas- 1 
sionate, impetuous temperament doubtless inclines to a 
highly agitated emotional development as Starbuck 
has already shown. Weakened nerves and sickliness, 
as we must assume in Reiser and as is reported by 
Lotte Schleiermacher, surely tend to make the religious 
development unsteady and impulsive. Allusion has 
already been made to the encouragement which the 
catastrophic course of development receives through 

V __ 

58 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

the conversion customs of certain religious denomina- 

The light-hearted and even-tempered in contrast 
with the melancholy will usually have a calm and peace- 
ful development. Starbuck presents several circum- 
stances which in his opinion promote the calmer devel- 
opment : in the first place he names the child's religious 
environment. But not any religious environment is 
meant, only one in which piety reigns, which avoids 
excesses and does not put the emphasis so much on 
religious doctrine as on life. Above everything, the 
teachers and the pastors who instruct the youths in 
religion must take care that no contradiction is to be 
traced between their teachings and living. For the 
youth who is naturally critical and inclined toward 
radical interpretations, such contradiction is sure to 
lead to considerable emotional disturbance. 8 

A grew up in a family and a boarding school in an 
atmosphere which was favorable to religious ^develop- 
ment. In the literary productions of such gymnasium 
students as sons of merchants, in cases in which the 
development takes a "negative" direction, one does not 
find that sort of violent inner agitation which the 
diaries and poems of young seminary students display. 
Religious instruction in the seminary, on which more 
time was spent than in other schools and which at times 
made no small demands ^on the intellect and on the 
memory, and the regular family worship and church 
going, the neglect of which was punished, often gave B, 
and C, as well as D and P occasion for inner religious 
conflicts. 10 The life in the boarding school, apart from 
the periods of actual instruction favors the further 

8 P. 59. 

10 See Appendix D, p. 118. 

The Progress of Religious Development 59 

exchange of thought of young people and thus leads to 
an, increase of the tension. Diversions, such as family 
life affords, there are none. The natural impulse of 
youths for freedom and activity, to which certain limits 
are set by the house rules, tends to pursue its course 
unhindered in the conversation of the intellectually 

In the narrow common life at the brotherhood's 
school at Barby, young Schleiermacher and some of his 
friends at one time formed a club of "Independent 
Thinkers," in which was forecast their later freedom 
of the Moravians. The boys and young men of the 
nineteenth-century schools of the brotherhood still live 
in the two novels of H. Anders Kriiger, in which he 
has given such a vivid account of their religious con- 
flicts. Evidence of the degree to which the club 
strengthened and deepened individual religious experi- 
ence is furnished by the extravagant poems which six- 
teen-year-old N dedicated to the Bible circle to which 
he belonged." The youth who has become conscious 
of his own individual ego keeps zealous watch lest his 
personal freedom be touched. If in recognition of his 
own weakness he has limits placed upon his freedom, 
these violent disturbances of development may be the 
consequence. Like any other constraint, one in reli- 
gious things is calculated to interfere with a calm even 
development. Starbuck 12 presents the report of a 
man, who tells how powerfully Sabbath keeping was 
impressed on him as a child; the report goes: "On 
Sundays we could not whittle, go faster than a walk, 
go down to the river, laugh, play in any way, whistle, 
etc. No one who has not passed through it can imag- 

11 See Appendix, p. 123. 
l$ Starbuck, p. 302. 

60 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

ine how I felt as Saturday night drew on. It was as if 
I were about to walk through the valley of the shadow 
of death. We were obliged to spend the day at church 
and Sunday School, both of which I loathed." The 
affecting child tragedy of little Meretlein in Grunen 
Heinrich, which Gottfried Keller composed from notes 
of his Pietist days, will always furnish the best exam- 
ple of a religious upbringing that seriously interfered 
with a young man's spiritual and bodily development. 
As a further condition for a steady course of devel- 
opment Starbuck states that "it must correspond at 
every point with the child's needs." He illustrates this 
by the story of a clergyman known to him, who will- 
ingly entered into the doubts of his youthful son and 
thus helped him to overcome his mental unrest. And 
Herman Anders Kriiger tells of the thorough under- 
standing on the part of educators of the religious need 
of a pupil in his Moravian boy's story, Gottfried 
Kdmpfer. In order to avoid all unnecessary tension so 
good a friend of the youth of big cities as the Ham- 
burg pastor, Clemens Schultz, 18 considers necessary for 
this a church opportunity, not a religious opportunity 
("religious opportunity is nonsense!"). On the part 
of the evangelical church there is an inclination to con- 
sider religious disturbances in youth unavoidable, for 
"a strong subjective autonomous element" 14 is charac- 
teristic of Protestantism as a religion. If on the part 
of Catholics the harmonious growth of the child's 
religion into that of the adult is considered best, one 
must also admit that the development is very hard to 
attain without violent disturbances in the period of 
storm and stress. Jakob Hofmann 1B reports of the 

13 Schultz, p. 40. 
"Richert, p. 47, 
15 Hofmann, p. 247. 

The Progress of Religious Development 61 

Catholics questioned by him, that only a fifth had been 
free of conflicts and struggles. The influence of the 
Catholic Church is usually so strong that it "fixes per- 
manently the mode of contemplation and the appro- 
priate religious feeling even in the case of radical 
changes of view," 16 as Wilhelm Stahlin brings out in 
a discussion of Coenobium's Almanac of religious psy- 
chology. August Messer's story in Glauben und> Wis- 
sen, which tells of his inward development, illustrates 
this fact in the case of a single individual. In the last 
remarks we are touching a field that is to receive spe- 
cial treatment under the title "Direction of Develop- 

To recapitulate, we have pointed out the significance 
of the religious community for the course of develop- 
ment of an individual. The continuous course is un- 
usual in all ultra religious communities, 'for these sects 
favor that culminating in "conversion." Although the 
church considers the continuous development as the 
ideal, yet we have to accept the "mixed course" as the 
commonest form among her members. 

19 Z. f. Relig. Psy., VI, p. 153. 



WHETHER the youth's religious development re- 
sembles the continuous or the catastrophic form, he 
strives to grasp the religious ideas imparted to him by 
his environment, while they are generally accepted 
uncritically by the child. Then, too, the child in most 
cases shows merely a receptive attitude toward religion, 
but the youth of his own accord begins to take the 
religious tradition seriously. When I2j4 years old, 
A has such a strong feeling of guilt after a lie that she 
wants to die. From 15 on B worries over the existence 
and the nature of God ; and as he doubts God, so does 
he doubt his own worth. B is surprised that religious 
questions take such violent hold on him, while earlier 
he easily disregarded them. 

Further development may lead to a deepening and 
strengthening of transmitted religious ideas: it may 
thus be positive as in A's case. But the development 
may also lead to a rejection of the religious tradition, 
to a break with it. The development then, as in D's 
case, 1 takes a negative turn. It may also waver in the 
direction it takes. Seventeen-year-old B broke with 
the religion of his childhood; his prayer at 18 points 
to a progressive religious ecstasy, as opposed to the 
primitive petitions and vows of his I5th and i6th 
years; at 20 he feels himself a materialist, and at 23 

1 See Appendix. 


Direction of Development 63 

he is again in a positive relation with religion that is 
subsequently maintained. 

It often happens that youths in large cities renounce 
church and religion as E did. As to what Gunther 
Dehn says, anyone who is at all familiar with the cir- 
cumstances will agree : "I have never been able to dis- 
cover traces of a painful parting with ideas that have 
become dear to me in childhood; and more, I have 
always found that one all too quickly appropriates the 
fine phrases which testify less of pious mental conflicts 
than of thoughtless superficiality as, for example, that 
the priests are deceiving the world, that religion is 
bosh and that science has proved that there is no God." 
In this case one can no more speak of real development 
than one can of a sudden change in the form of faith 
when there is no inward motive for it ; in such a devel- 
opment one has to understand nothing more than a 
change in the existing environmental conditions. 

Likewise if one means by development the steady 
cultivation and extension of an existing talent, power, 
or function* then in a violent break with traditional 
religion, such as Gunther Dehn describes, one should 
not use the word development : for even the concept of 
"negative development," which may lead to a complete 
rejection of religion, presupposes an overcoming of 
the existing condition from within. Such a break as 
Dehn describes, which consists in uncritically giving up 
a tradition, means that another tradition will be 
accepted just as uncritically and credulously. Within 
the newly received tradition a development toward a 
religious substitute is conceivable, somewhat as one 
proceeds from mere imitative babbling of socialistic 
dogmas to a deeper understanding of them, then learns 
to prize the dogmas less, becomes more patient with 


64 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

those who think differently, but still holds to the social- 
istic idea with credulous fervor and is ready to make 
sacrifices for its realization. A negative development 
of the religious substitute is just as possible : experience 
and reflection may so operate that the value of the 
community as over against that of the self-conscious, 
happily creative individual is less highly prized, and 
the ideal of a free and harmonious personality or of a 
super-man may take on a religious coloring. 



ONLY in the cases that show a catastrophic course 
can there be any certainty about the time of its begin- 
ning. When the development runs continuously, the 
transitions from the child's religion to that of the 
youth are fluent and unnoticeable. Physical maturity 
furnishes no dependable hint of the religious, since 
bodily and spiritual developments do not run parallel. 
The reserve which the youth often shows toward 
adults in respect to his spiritual life considerably mini- 
mizes the value of a stranger's observation. All state- 
ments that are made from memory about the begin* 
ning of the religious development one must accept with 
caution: only when a first religious awakening is con- 
nected with the confirmation, the first confession, or 
some similar experience, or when conversion took place, 
can the testimony as to time, made from memory, lay 
any claim to trustworthiness. Sure signs that the reli- 
gious development has begun, however, we can recog- 
nize in the observations in the diary of the adolescent, 
and likewise inferences can be drawn from the youth- 
ful poems as to the time of the religious awakening, 
for the heightened religious experience strives for 

When the diary is given up, we may conclude that 
the storm arid stress period is at an end. On the basis 


66 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

of the material available for this study, it would seem 
that the religious development had definitely begun 
with the completion of the ifth year and that after 
the 22nd year came a definite cessation. Starbuck has 
more carefully investigated the age at which the con- 
versions occurred while incidentally furnishing evidence 
of other matters. Other American investigators have 
also tried to establish the age of conversion. From 
the different investigations of Stanley Hall, 1 Coe, 
Starbuck, and Lancaster it appears that the religious 
awakening begins between 12 and 20 years of age. 
But the conversions are not distributed evenly over 
these years. In women the process usually begins 
earlier than in men. If the statistical collections of 
Starbuck and of Stanley Hall are dependable, in men 
most conversion occurs at 16, while in women very 
many conversions occur not only at 16 but at 13. As 
early as 9 years of age conversions sometimes occur, 
according to Starbuck, and according to Hammond's 
investigation the loth year is one of the most frequent ! 
But we must ask somewhat doubtfully whether one 
can at such an early age really have had experiences 
which are of fundamental significance for the whole 
future development. Hammond's important time dif- 
ference is perhaps explained by the fact that he does 
not employ the concept of conversion as a sudden 
change in religious habits of life so sharply as other 
investigators; perhaps where conversion at the age of 
childhood is spoken of, a "first" deep impression is 
meant, which is subsequently interpreted as religious. 

By Catholics the day of their first communion is 
sometimes given as the time at which they awake to a 
religious life. Since the first communion occurs as 
1 Stanley Hall, p. a88. 

Beginning and Duration of Development 6,7 

early as the 1 2th year or before, there is here a certain 
contradiction to our supposition that we may speak of 
religious development as more or less coincident with 
the beginning of mental and physical maturation. We 
meet this contradiction by admitting that we are deal- 
ing not only with the experience connected with the 
first communion but also, as in the case of American 
child conversions, with those of the "first" impressions 
of emotion, the seizure, the awful wonderment which 
later gain a religious significance ; or we have to admit 
the Catholic brotherhood of faith works for an early 
beginning of development. On the basis of the exisk 
ing observation material, the contradiction cannot be 
reconciled. A later beginning of religious development 
is indicated primarily by the fact that the other higher 
spiritual functions in the normal youth usually unfold 
at the earliest at about the I4th year. (By spiritual 
functions we mean that complex of mental conduct 
which has reference to the objective system of belief, 
as well as to the social structures, to domestic economy, 
to science and religion.) It is significant that the 
religious development seems first to appear in the i6th 
year in the life of the genial Otto Braun, whose spirit- 
ual life developed with such astonishing rapidity. 


FEUERBACH and other defenders of materialism 
have made the attempt to derive the spiritual life and 
with it also the religious from physical experiences. 
More recently Sigmund Freud and his disciples have 
attributed the higher mental states and processes 
including the religious to the physical sensations of the 
sexual libido. Girgensohn, in his book on "the mental 
components of the religious experience," has strikingly 
criticized the psycho-analyst theories for they are 
theories and not facts and prescribed proper limits. 
If we here contrast our view with that of the psycho- 
analysts, it is because there have been repeated 
attempts made by them to explain youth's religious 
development on the basis of the sexual. Even if no 
sexual factors can be discovered in the religious devel- 
opment of adults, still that of adolescents may possibly 
be somewhat dependent upon them. We shall next, 
therefore, have a few psycho-analysts speak, and then 
we shall criticize them on the basis of our data. 

In his very constructive essay "Leonardo da Vinci, 
a Psycho-sexual Study of an Infantile Reminiscence," 
Freud writes: "In ,the parental complex we thus 
recognize the roots of religious need; the almighty 
just God, and kindly nature appear to us as grand 
sublimations of father and mother, or rather as reviv- 
als and restorations of the infantile conceptions of 


Love and Religion in Adolescence 69 

both parents. Religiousness is biologically traced to 
the long period of helplessness and need of help of 
the little child; the child grows up and realizes his 
loneliness and weakness in the presence of the great 
forces of life, perceives his condition as in childhood 
and seeks to disavow his despair through a regressive 
revival of the protecting forces of childhood. 1 

In like manner the English psycho-analytical physi- 
cian and psychologist, Havelock Ellis, 2 actually traces 
a wife's frequent youthful storms and stresses to frus- 
trated sex impulses. And in the appendix of his book, 
as a typical example, he publishes the report of a cul- 
tured English wife and mother: "As a child and girl I 
had very strong religious feelings. ... These feelings 
were much the same as I experienced later sexually; 
I felt toward God what I imagined I should like to 
feel for my husband if I married. 3 

Stanley Hall, who was the first university professor 
to recognize Freud,* refers to the close connection 
which exists between the religious awakening and 
puberty. For Stanley Hall 5 the new insight into the 
parallelism between religion and love signifies perhaps 
the chief of the many important contributions which 
the modern psychology has made to piety and is one 
of the most sublime and fruitful themes of our day. 
He designates 12 points, in which religion and love 
show the closest similarity, particularly in youth : e 

1. Both risk death, but may however triumph over it. 

2. Both make the soul highly sensitive to nature. 

1 Freud, pp. 103-104. 

2 Ellis, p. 197. ?^ 

3 P. 229; cf. M., p. I22f. 

* Pfister, p. ii. ' 
5 Stanley Hall, Adolescence, II. 29'?. 

Ibid., 2 95 ff, 

70 The Religious Development of Adolescents 


3. Both have their fanaticisms. 

4. Lovers are nest builders; religious persons build 

5. Religion, like love and the sea, ebbs and flows, modes 
of abnegation alternating with those of aggression and 

6. Love and religion incite the soul to rhythmic move- 
ments in poetry, song and dance. 

7. Not only do both abase but both exalt the self. 

8. Both have their most varied and accurately prescribed 
forms of etiquette and ceremony. 

9. Love and religion tend to exalt all possible objects of 
nature to fetishes and to worship them. 

10. Man and woman in the course of history have mutu- 
ally influenced each other, and thus man and God 
mutually influence each other. 

11. The Christian loves as the woman does; there is a 
quiet, retirement and fond contemplation of the image 
of the dear one. 

12. Once more, love and religion are analogous in that 
both vivify and lend the immense influence of their 
vitality to almost every act or object. 

Such parallels, according to Stanley Hall, might be 
easily multiplied. True love and religious experience 
are almost impossible before adolescence. The birth- 
day of the strongest passion is the day of the greatest 
need of religion, and is also the period when the calen- 
tures of both are in greatest danger of becoming con- 
fused one with the other, so that devotional and pas- 
sional states may become mutually provocative. It is 
only in later life that their spheres become more 

Stanley Hall's analogies contain a few correct 
observations, and much besides that is false and trivial. 
Some of the similarities mentioned by him are so gen- 

Love and Religion in Adolescence 71 

eral that they suit other ages quite as well as adoles- 
cence and may apply to other life situations. (For 
instance, Point 3 : the desire for power and rule may 
also degenerate into fanaticism ; Point 4 : the domestic 
impulse may also cause building; Point 5: conditions 
of exhaustion and lassitude follow those of mental 
excitement.) Further the designated points assert all 
sorts of things about the same and similar effects, with- 
out anything convincing being asserted about the 
mutual relation of love and religion. Concerning 
Point 2 it is to be noted that love not only arouses a 
feeling for nature but generally also the emotional life ; 
for every true love causes an arousal and increase of 
the customary psychic states designated as "feelings," 
a condition which is also favorable to religion. 

Indeed love is able so to inspire a youth that he rep- 
resents in poems the object of his affection as of divine 
or heavenly appearance. But these are not cases of 
religious experience; expressions and figures of speech 
are only borrowed from the religious sphere. Let a 
youthful poem of 1 6-year-old Friedrich Hebbel, 7 Long- 
ing To L, serve as an illustration of this process : 

Sweet one, divine one, give ear unto me 

Give hope to my poor, pleading quest, 

For I'm no more frightened by life's stormy sea 

Thru night and thru mist I eome gladly to thee 

To warm myself at thy breast. 

Should worlds cast themselves from their limitless space 

In my path, I'd fly eagerly through, 

Heavenly exalted one, thee to embrace 

I should fly to the clouds, even heaven I'd face 

Yea, hell itself would I subdue. 

The pathos of these lines discloses the devastating 

'Hebbel, JPerke.'Vll, pp. 9, ai. 

72 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

experience which called them forth in a somewhat 
veiled form. 

In another youthful poem of 1 7-year-old Hebbel, 
Friendship, also directed "to L" he actually creates a 
myth which tells how Love comes down from heaven 
and, together with Youth, pours "out of his eternal 
abundance the warmest of divine feeling into his cold 
heart," but how Satan "slyly steals the veil" from Love 
and with it clothes "the very sly devil Perfidy," so 
that he now goes about thus disguised in it to "kill by 
lust and deceit the beautiful faith in the worth of man, 
in God and eternity." 

When Stanley Hall speaks of the interdependence 
of puberty and religion, he should more fully substan- 
tiate this claim. The conception of sexuality, even, is 
not adhered to in its original physical meaning by 
Stanley Hall and other psycho-analysts. While Freud 
in his early writings defined this concept in strictly 
physical terms, he later saw the need of giving it a much 
broader interpretation. He writes: "We assign to 
the sexual life also tender feelings, which are derived 
from the primitive sexual emotions, even when these 
emotions are shut off from their original sexual goal or 
have exchanged this goal for another, no longer sexual. 
For that reason we prefer to speak of psycho-sexuality, 
laying stress on the fact that one should not overlook 
nor under-value the psychic factor of the sexual life. 
We use the word, sexuality, in the same comprehensive 
sense as the word, love. 8 In this word of Freud there 
is confession that it is no longer practicable to con- 
ceive sexual physical sensations as the immediate cause 
of spiritual experiences. 

No more may it be proved that physical maturity 

8 Freud, '20, I, 92. 

Love and Religion in Adolescence 73 

causally conditions the psychic. On the basis of his 
material collected in the Berlin Fortbildungschule, Lau 
arrives at this conclusion: "The period of most rapid 
growth and of puberty is accompanied by the awaken- 
ing of the ethical personality and the transition of the 
child's emotional life into that of the adult." Star- 
buck made similar statements in respect to the religious 
life of youth ; according to Starbuck the period of most 
rapid bodily growth is the time when conversion is 
most likely to occur ; on the other hand conversion and 
puberty tend to supplement each other in time rather 
than to coincide. 8 The statistical collections of Lau 
and Starbuck draw no conclusions which really supple- 
ment or enrich the impression which the watchful 
observer of young people gets from association with 
them; the physical and psychic maturing processes 
generally begin about the same time. But while the 
sexual ripening process ends at about the sixteenth 
year with boys, and with girls at about the fifteenth, 
"psychic puberty" lasts till the twentieth year. But 
for the religious development it is important that it 
begin rather late and last over to an age in which the 
process of physical maturing has long since reached its 
end. 10 

For a great number of cases of morbid religiosity 
Pfister " has shown sexual components. But when it 
is maintained by psycho-analysts, as by Bleuler in the 
Zeitschrift fur Religion Psychologie, 12 that onanism 
and similar sexual perversions precede youthful con- 
sciousness of sin, then surely this claim goes too far. 
In the numerous cases given by Starbuck there is no 

8 Starbuck, pp. 38, 41. 

10 Cf. Chapter V. 

11 P. 35i. 
"HI? 5.' 

74 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

evidence for this; and also in the manuscript material 
on which the present work is based no confirmation of 
this assertion can be found. 

Neither have I as yet found proof of another claim 
of Freud; namely, that psycho-analysis "reminds us 
daily how youthful persons lose their religion and 
faith as soon as their father's authority is destroyed." 
In B's diary are passages which point to an intimate 
relation to his father at a time when his faith in God 
was already destroyed ; the cases of D and E are simi- 
lar in this respect. A confirmation of Bleuler's claim 
as well as of Freud's appears in Strindberg's autobi- 
ography; 13 but here too the conflict with the parents 
is neither the only nor the immediate cause of the 
break with religious faith, and besides the conscious- 
ness of sin is artificially increased by his reading. 

In cases of sickness and degeneration, as those 
reported by Pfister show, sex feeling may be the means 
by which the religious life receives a special coloring; 
but the religious experience itself is always independent 
and primary and not to be accounted for by any of its 
disparate elements ; and no psychological analysis will 
ever be in position to reveal the mystery of the experi- 
encing of God. Of psycho-analysis we must demand 
that it point out the sexual components in the religious 
experience itself, which it will never succeed in doing. 
Girgensohn in his studies in the psychology of religion 
observes that no sexual motives are visible to the 
unbiased reader, and the subjects, Girgensohn calls 
them "observers," "were aware in no place of the 
concurrence of sexual motives"; and also that there 
was "not the slightest cause" for concealing them. 1 * 

13 P. 138. 

l * Girgensohn, pp. 418-419. 

Love and Religion in Adolescence 75 

In the diaries and reports lying before me as in Flour- 
noy's observation, the sexual-erotic factor appears in 
no such way as to permit one to speak of it as a leading 
or dominating motive in religious development. On 
the other hand, when it is said by psycho-analysts that 
unconscious sexual components, in changed or "subli- 
mated" form, have participated in the building up of 
the religious experience, Girgensohn truly remarks: 
"Now that is the transforming function, the real domi- 
nating motive, the real creator of the spiritual process. 
Then indeed the sex feeling is not actually the substan- 
tial one, but it is only matter for the mysterious spirit- 
ual process which changes and transforms it." 16 

In reference to the derivation of religion among the 
adherents of psycho-analysis there are different concep- 
tions; one of Pfister's publications ls attests this: "One 
has to be on his guard against the inclination to con- 
ceive of religion merely as libido at a higher level." 
The normal civilized young man is not a pure creature 
of sex to such an extent as is the youth of primitive 
peoples, whose awakening sexuality immediately finds 
satisfaction, indeed whose whole training is directed 
toward this goal. 1 ' For, in the case of young people in 
civilized communities, there is usually a longer time of 
waiting between sexual maturity and sexual enjoyment,! 
at least if there has been no untimely seduction during! 
which time the sensuous desire, the libido, undergoes 
"sublimation." The sexual-physical tendencies early 
yield to more spiritual ones; for the "love" of youth 
is not so much sexuality as amatory sentiment. Love 
in this sense, which causes the young person to feel in 
the object of his inclination not so much the sentient 
16 Ibid., p. 430. 

" Pfister, pp. 352, 266. 
** Cf. Franke. 

76 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

being as the spiritual fulfillment of his own ego, 
enriches his whole mental life in an unsuspected degree 
and frequently makes him for the first time able to 
understand the everlasting fullness and beauty of 
existence. "His eye seeth the heavens open." In the 
youth who is suffering from self-consciousness and lone- 
liness, longing awakes to embrace the universe with 
all his might ; but in this longing we see with Spranger 
"the heart of the religious process, just as much as 
when it appears as a struggle for God or for mental 
unity." 18 

The beatitude that begets pure love may lead one to 
abandon himself to the universe with holy reverence 
and feel himself one with it, or humbly and devoutly to 
honor a higher Being as the giver of this happiness. 
But when love has lost its spirituality and has the taint 
of the ugly, bestial, and common, it may work dread 
and horror in him who thus experiences it, and may 
cause him to regard the whole world of sense as low 
and despicable and to oppose to it a spiritual, ideal 
world to come. Renunciation of the world, as both 
Augustine and Tolstoy say in their confessions, is 
caused by such experiences. But whoever does not \ 
possess the constructive power for the building of an \ 
ideal world, disgust for the world may drive into reli- 
gious despair or into suicide. In the story "Volo- 
dya," 1B Anton Chekhov represents such a case with 
affecting realism. It is characteristic of eroticism and 
religious experiences that in them the ego of a person 
finds its fulfillment through another ego, and this devo- 
tion to the "thou" is marked by an especially strong 
feeling tone. Speaking figuratively, these feelings may 

18 Kultur und Erziehung, p. 241. 

19 In his collection, The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories. 

Love and Religion in Adolescence 77 

mix and strengthen each other, as is shown by a note 
of 17-year-old A: "I am almost dying of joy. ... In 
my heart it is spring too. . . . Yesterday's meeting with 
'him' is a splendid answer to prayer." 

Similar observations cannot disguise the fact that 
religion by its very nature is quite different from 
eroticism. Inasmuch as Girgensohn acknowledges "the 
important problem of strengthening the emotions" in 
relation to physical resonance and to religious feel- 
ing, 20 a similar problem may be taken up for the more 
spiritually directed love of youth. The adolescent 
often borrows expressions and images from the lan- 
guage of love, in order to express the meaning of his 
religious experience. The writer of the diary pub- 
lished by Charlotte Buhler, in which the clarifying and 
enlightening tendencies come out strongly, sometimes 
experiences religious moods. At such times the i6j^- 
y ear-old Protestant girl turns in prayer to the Virgin 
Mary! " "O Mary, I am so grateful, that thou hast 
sent me a man, thou dear one." It is specifically the 
feminine aspect of Godhood which the diarist experi- 
enced, indeed, in such force that the tendency toward 
enlightenment once natural to her and her Protestant- 
ism sometimes gives way before this form of worship 
required by Catholicism. Sometimes in other cases, 
too, there may result from the love of youth a condi- 
tion which is contrary to its intellectual unity so charac- 
teristic that Stern in his history of mankind parallels 
the age of youth with the age of enlightenment. 

20 P. 415. 

21 P. 71? 



IF we closely examine the affecting style of Schiller's 
youthful poems, in order to penetrate to the original 
experience of the young poet, we find here, too, 
especially in the songs dedicated to "Laura," the close 
relation of love and religion. To both there is a 
strong intellectual cast so that the religion of Schiller 
then nearly twenty-one is almost metaphysics. In 
Schiller's youthful poems the intellect exercises a con- 
structive activity, by comparing his conception of the 
world with religion. On the other hand, in the earlier 
stages his thought exercises a solvent and destructive 
effect on the religious ideas which the youth had held 
in his childhood. 

We have seen that the child in a normal manner 
accepts credulously and uncritically the religious tra- 
dition of his environment. With increasing years, 
when he has sharpened his eye for reality and his 
thought processes have strengthened, like others he 
begins to review and examine his religious ideas more 
closely. He discovers contradictions between sensu- 
ously experienced reality, the conception of the world 
furnished by natural science, on the one hand, and the 
world of religious thought on the other. He tries to 
harmonize his whole experience and knowledge, but 


Intellectual Unity of Religious Development 79 

he has to recognize that many of the religious thoughts 
transmitted to him and the thoughts further developed 
by him in imagination cannot be retained and recon- 
ciled. In them doubt begins. First, such matters of 
faith are questioned and overthrown as appear to con- 
tradict sensuously experienced reality. "There are no 
devils with horns and pitchforks, or someone must have 
seen them," or "Heaven is only blue sky. Nobody 
knows where Heaven is." 1 Biblical miracles are ques- 
tioned: "No man can walk on water." Then his doubt 
transfers to church dogmas, the divinity of Christ, the 
Trinity. More and more of the church dogmas are 
discarded, until at last the whole structure falls in 
ruins along with the belief in the personality and exist- 
ence of God. 

The development here indicated, in which brooding 
intelligence gives up one article of faith after another, 
proceeds without interruption. In articulate, intellec- 
tually inclined natures, this process may be typical. 
But the trend of the development need not be uncondi- 
tionally negative. It is possible that single dogmas 
may cease to be given credence while the general direc- 
tion remains positive, as A's example shows. And the 
doubts mentioned by Messer did not at first change 
anything in his positive development ; not until the end 
of the adolescent period did his "central skepticism 
begin, the doubt as to whether this world's misfortune 
and misery excludes the possibility of faith in God the 
Father"; then Messer was estranged from his church 
and became, at least in theory, an adherent of material- 

In many youths at certain times there appears a 
leaning toward materialism. Haeckel's World-prob- 

1 Schrciber, p. 58. 

8o The Religious Development of Adolescents 

lems are favorite readings in this period to which spir- 
itual stirrings usually bring a quick recovery. The 
period becomes dangerous for the whole later develop- 
ment if a practical materialism grows out of the the- 
oretical. At this stage, then, begins an estrangement 
from the spiritual world. When Anton Reiser saw 
criminals executed, "man seemed to him so worthless 
and insignificant that as a result he became possessed 
by the idea of bestial dismemberment." Sometimes he 
"so far forgot himself in continued observation of an 
animal that for a moment he actually believed he had 
experienced the kind of existence of such a creature." 
In B's notes there is this sentence : "O, what a pleasure 
to be a dog and to bark at the world!" 

Starbuck a distinguishes this period of alienation 
from that of storm and stress and indicates the nature 
of the difference by means of a few typical phrases. 
Mental states during the period of storm and stress are 
described in expressions like the following: "I had a 
very bitter feeling." "I chafed against restraint." "I 
was filled with mental distress." These, on the con- 
trary, represent the feeling during alienation : "I was 
gloomy and cynical." "I came to a state of desperate 
indifference." "I gave up the search for God and no 
longer cared even to die." Starbuck sees in alienation 
"the natural outgrowth of doubt; one reasons, ana- 
lyzes, and criticizes; there is less feeling of any kind." 
He may not be correct in this one-sided, intellectual 
conception of alienation. 

In the case of Anton Reiser, the estrangement arose 
from an unfortunate moral situation ; and B wrote the 
words published at a time when he was suffering from 
a troublesome cough and general lassitude. As a rule, 

a Starbuck, pp. 244, 245, 250. 

Intellectual Unity of Religious Development 81 

the youth seldom thinks logically and consistently; 
usually his thinking is mixed with strong emotions, 
"intuitive" and often impulsive. We have already 
referred to the intense feelings of dissatisfaction which 
were accompanied by skepticism and which sometimes 
in the case of B led to thoughts of suicide. Earlier, 
B had heard doubts expressed concerning the existence 
of God. "When I thought about it," he wrote, "it was 
easy for me to treat it with indifference." Now night 
after night he ponders and then arrives at a denial of 
God's existence. A bit later he shrinks from this con- 
sequence and consoles himself with a sort of prag- 
matism, which he justifies in his allegory of the trav- 
eler in the desert. He seeks for a substitute for his 
abandoned religion in love for his neighbor. A few 
weeks later he has become dubious about his denial of 
God's existence again entirely through his own think- 
ing; he even prays again. Further, the next notation 
indicates a very primitive belief in miracles, which is 
not even morally free from objection. When he desires 
to influence God so that he may escape a deserved pun- 
ishment, B has again drawn near to God and hopes 
for another sign. Jle prays in his distress ; but divine 
service at church consoles him little. Consequently he 
makes the effort to understand a few dogmas and to 
reconcile them with the understanding. In the con- 
fused thought processes that proceed from the expres- 
sion, "God is spirit," he arrives at pantheism. But a 
little later meditation on the Holy Ghost brings him 
to a belief in a diune personal God. The last words 
at this time, "from reasons that permit no contra- 
diction," are significant, for in them is the self- 
confidence and assurance characteristic of youthful 

82 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

After a longer pause the diary notes begin again 
with self indictments. Again B begs God for a sign 
and even takes an oath. This points to an entirely 
primitive worship. The poem, "A Thinker's Prayer," 
appearing not much later, when he was sixteen, carries 
in it traces of confused thinking, and the last lines 
indicate a belief that there is a soul in everything 
(pantheism). The poem written when he was seven- 
teen betrays doubts of God's goodness. But he prays 
pnly "out of prudence." The next poems announce 
disbelief arising from want of knowledge about the 
last things in the world and in the life of man. In his 
eighteenth year B again writes a prayer. The stage of 
primitive religion is now finally passed ; beholding God 
mystically, he feels himself working in harmony with 
the Eternal, doing good in the world. But the devel- 
opment proceeds. B again reaches a condition of 
skepticism and materialism when at twenty he recog- 
nizes that his youthful poetic dream is not being ful* 
filled, for his self-criticism teaches him that his poetic 
ability falls far below his desire. An unfortunate love 
affair, during this same period, he feels to be less tragic 
than having to give up the vocation of his liking. In 
devotion to his calling as a teacher and in scientific 
activity B at last finds satisfaction. Subsequently skep- 
ticism is given up and positive religious development 
finally sets in, pragmatic considerations having a part 
in this last change. 

B's development had its beginning in a dogmatic 
belief in God; it led back again to faith in God having 
followed a course of violent emotional disturbances 
and of radical doubt and skepticism. But the belief in 
God at the end is different from that in the beginning. 

Intellectual Unity of Religious Development 83 

Most of the church dogmas, like those of the Trinity, 
and the divinity of Christ, have been given up, as has 
also the belief in the personal interference of God for 
the sake of one's physical well-being. Even in great 
danger of battle B was not able to ask for the preserva- 
tion of his life. 

But thinking has not only worked negatively by 
solving transmitted ideas of faith; it has also had a 
positive influence: God has become greater, so great 
and absolute that B prefers quietly to worship the 
unsearchable without forming any definite concept of 
Him. Instead of the selfish wishes, with which the 
child and even the sixteen-year-old youth approached 
the Most High, comes submission to the divine will 
and the attempt, if possible, to do justice to every one 
of life's demands. Among the influences which turned 
B's thinking in this direction are especially to be men- 
tioned the writings of German mystics, extracts from 
Thomas a Kempis, and Ekkehart, as well as poems of 
the Mohammedan Omar Khayyam (in the translation 
of Count Schack). Personal encouragement on the 
part of the teachers of religion or the clergy played a 
very insignificant role in B's case. Heavy blows of 
fate, sickness and the like, which exercised a traceable 
influence on the religious thinking of A and C, 8 B did 
not experience. How far his early life experiences 
decisively influenced B's thinking, cannot be discovered 
from the diary. 

If we try to understand religious development by 
reference to the intellectualistic demands of adoles- 
cents, we may say that they take a personal attitude 
toward the objective contents of belief, and analyzing 

3 See p. 116. 

84 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

them try to justify them before their intellects, and so 
form for themselves their own religious convictions; 
with certain religious types to which the cases observed 
by us belong, there comes also a rationalizing and 
ethicalizing of the contents of faith, 


"DOUBT seems to belong to youth as its natural 
heritage," Starbuck affirms x on the basis of his statis- 
tical collections; according to these it appears that 
more than two-thirds of all adolescents pass through 
a period of doubt. The value of Starbuck's results is 
lessened by the fact that he did not distinguish sharply 
enough between the occasions for doubt and the dif- 
ferent kinds. Doubt does not necessarily arise from 
purely rational reflection; often it has moral causes. 
The doubt of God's fatherly love experienced by 
Goethe and Ellen Kay in childhood and by Messer 
toward the end of the adolescent period was due to 
moral considerations. Of a socio-ethical sort is the 
doubt which sometimes begins in the life of Christians 
and generally leads to a denial of Christianity. In 
one of the manuscript reports G, a young man twenty- 
two years old, after he has told of the religious faith 
of his childhood, writes: "People think they act 
entirely in harmony with their belief; and yet how 
often have I had to deal with those whose actions I 
knew were very different from their talk. In this, 
above all, greatness lies to lead a truly devout life 
and not, like some who are very earnest about these 
things, foolishly renounce the externalities of such a 

1 Starbuck, p. 232. 


86 The Religions Development of Adolescents 

life, Sunday church-going and so forth." With C, 
too, similar thoughts play a role. "There are clergy- 
men who act in their sermons as if they had spoken 
with the Lord God himself. . . ."). Starbuck pre- 
sents a series of corresponding statements. 

Very often, unanswered prayers give occasion for 
doubting God's goodness and justice, as the example of 
the boy Bareiss showed. 2 Stronger emotions are usu- 
ally more characteristic of moral doubts, than of those 
that follow purely rational reflection; when moral 
doubt as to the object of worship attains any real 
strength, there generally follows a renunciation of the 
religion of childhood. Other youths reject prayer as 
egoistic and selfish, which for the child's prayer is 
usually true; of prayer as such, however, it is false. 
But youth inclines to generalization, and particularly 
in ethical matters his judgments are very severe. In 
consequence youth is still inspired by the majesty of 
Christ and his teachings when he has broken with the 
church's belief in God. 

B, at 15^, doubting God, recognizes love for one's 
neighbor as the "first commandment" and describes 
it as "the love of God." C writes: "The greatness of 
Jesus is his profound thinking and the fact that he 
gives to so many a deep tranquillity of soul . . . but it 
is a mistake to represent Him as the actual Son of 
God." In J's letter (to H) we read. "To me there 
are two possibilities for the word religion. The first 
is our present church belief, as it has been taught for 
centuries by pastors and priests, belief in the omni- 
present, all-seeing, all-controlling, omniscient God, 
belief in heaven and in life after death, the communion 
of the saints, and many other beautiful things. The 

8 PP. 35-36. 

Socio-Ethical Influences 87 

second possibility, which I have also followed, is that 
which understands by the term religion any love of 
one's fellow-men, to help and aid them. That is the 
true Christian religion as Christ practiced it. I cannot 
possibly call good what the preacher preaches from his 
Bible. That is stuff for little children, but never for 
reasonable, thinking people who know exactly for 
instance how earth and man began." 

As in B's meditations J's last words exemplify that 
certainty and sufficiency which is natural to youthful 
thinking. Yes, just as B at the same time that he was 
already inclined toward radical doubts was still cling- 
ing to a notably primitive belief in miracles, so we find 
the same contradiction in J's thinking, when he writes 
in the continuation of his letter : "But I cannot get rid 
of the thought of a power which controls my fate. Only 
one example : One day in my business I was collecting 
money and by mistake was given five marks too much. 
After a moment's hesitation I gave the extra money 
back to the customer. The evening of the same day I 
found a five-mark piece on the street. Was that to be 
considered merely a coincidence? The thought came 
to me, 'The five marks were meant for you, you were 
meant to have them ! Or is that only the everlastingly 
hammered-in faith in an omniscient God? However 
the matter caused me to ponder deeply and I don't 
know what to think. I should like to free myself from 
church mummery and turn my faith toward my own 
self, and yet the thought of the power governing my 
fate still binds me." 

J is of a social nature and ethically disposed. In 
spite of this he is led by his belief in signs to keep this 
discovery to himself. But that does not keep him from 
doubting miracles and providence generally. The 

88 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

influence of an environment hostile to the church is 
clearly recognizable in the words "hammered-in faith" 
and "church mummery," and likewise by his rejection 
of the clergy and the Bible. The same hostility to the 
church and free thinking does not prevent other youths 
from being subject to confused superstitions. Belief 
in omens, charms and fortune-telling is especially wide- 
spread among young girls. Thoughts about the mys- 
terious future, which arise in young minds, cause them 
like the primitive folk of olden time to try to lift the 
thick veil which hangs before the life to come. The 
superstitious thoughts which appear among older 
school girls (see above) are still to be found in those 
who have left school. While children's superstition is 
harmless enough, more seriously and passionately 
embraced, it often leads them when a little older into 
unhappiness or even into serious misdeeds. 3 

As we have seen, ethical doubts are directed toward 
the object of religious belief (for instance, in the prob- 
lem of evil) ; but they may refer toward the subject, 
that is toward the young person's own self. We find 
this type especially among those religious communions 
in which as with Pietists, Methodists, and similar 
denominations, children are taught to consider their 
natural, sensuous, impulsive life as sinful and depraved. 
Thus especially those youths who naturally incline to 
the type described by James as "sick souls" are tor- 
mented by a consciousness of sin and at the same time 
by doubts of their own worth. Anton Reiser's life 
story is full of reports of such distress which often 
nourishes thoughts of suicide.* The letters of the 
Schleiermacher brother and sister which have been 

8 See p. 131. 

* See pp. 230, 258, 270. 

Socio-Ethical Influences 89 

mentioned also tell of such conflicts. Starbuck B mar- 
shalls a whole series of such self-torments. 

A few of Starbuck's numerous reports may be cited, 
for they are characteristic of the consciousness of sin 
of many youths. M.i6. "For three months it seemed 
as if God's spirit had withdrawn from me. There 
seemed to be a desolation of soul. Fear took hold of 
me. For a week I was on the border of despair." 
F. 17. "I was extremely nervous and passionate and 
lacking in self-control. Alternately I would sin because 
of weakness and then brood spasmodically over my 
depraved nature. At times I came to the conclusion 
that I could never be good and there was no use to try ; 
then usually a long attack of conscience twinges would 
follow." Sometimes the reporters say expressly that 
they did not follow a "particularly evil way," and yet 
consciousness of sin was extraordinarily strong in 

While the child seldom realizes any lack of harmony 
between the religious and socio-ethical elements which 
have been imposed upon him by his environment, the 
adolescent clearly recognizes the contrast between his 
real and his ideal life; and it is the consciousness of 
this contrast which may so embitter those of a nervous 
or even sensitive disposition and which has such a 
depressing effect upon their earlier years. And even 
natures that are not actually religious, like D's, for 
example, are sometimes laboring under a consciousness 
of guilt. In many cases when there is no sufficient 
sexual cause, no doubt actions considered as sexual 
deficiencies by the prevailing moral code arouse an 
especially severe feeling of guilt and sin. The moral 
and religious storm and stress often ends with the 

5 Starbuck, p. 6if. 

90 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

experience of conversion or "regeneration," receiving 
"grace" or gaining "assurance." According to 
William James 8 all these are "phrases which denote 
the process gradual or sudden, by which a self hitherto 
divided, and consciously wrong, inferior and unhappy, 
becomes unified and consciously right, superior and 
happy in consequence of its firmer hold upon religious 

But sometimes even after the experience of pardon, 
complete harmony between duty and desire, between 
the moral and the instinctive fails to appear; Anton 
Reiser's father furnishes an example of this, for his son 
says that a "continuous wavering back and forth" was 
characteristic of him up to his fiftieth year. Especially 
active is the religious and moral ferment wherever dif- 
ferent kinds of environments influence the youth. This 
happens whenever in workshop or office opinions belit- 
tling or denying religion come into opposition with the 
religious influences of the family and widen still more 
the chasm in the mental life of the adolescent. 7 Actu- 
ally not until the end of his period of puberty does he 
find the courage to make a decision; slowly he has 
formed his religious conviction, on the strength of 
which he rejects what is not suited to him or is alien 
to his nature. 

6 James, p. 189. 

7 What Schopen (p. 76) calls "Self portrayals" offer examples 
of this. 



THERE are people who remain a stranger to any con- 
sciousness of sin even in youth. The American reli- 
gious philosopher, F. W. Newman, expresses this fact 
with these words: "God has two families of children 
on this earth, the once-born and the twice-born." The 
once-born or "healthy-minded" as James calls them, 
are not troubled by moral doubts, and intellectual 
doubts do not particularly stir up their inner life. The 
religious development of these healthy-minded pro- 
ceeds peacefully and continuously, it is a gradual har- 
monious inner growth. If the direction of the develop- 
ment remains positive, the healthy-minded love the 
kindly Father in God, the Creator of the most beauti- 
ful and best of all worlds, whose favored children 
they feel themselves to be. 

If this development takes a negative turn, then the 
relinquishment of child faith proceeds painlessly, often 
unnoticed. Joy in the world, belief in everything beau- 
tiful, great, and good distinguishes the once-born 
"unbeliever." E, who describes himself as a monist, 
appears to belong to these ; he confesses : "When on a 
journey I see the beautiful countryside or gaze into the 
sky, or look into the water, or observe animals, or 
study the planets, then something holy comes over 
me, and I feel the infinitude of nature extending into 


92 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

the great and into the small ; these are my meditations 
in the free majestic cathedral of nature. Then the 
spirit is not confined in cold damp walls as it is in 
church. And out of my meditations, out of this absorp- 
tion in nature, I gain strength, courage, and pure 
inward joy." 

Credulous, healthy-minded, among whom we may 
count A, are just as susceptible to the greatness and 
beauty of nature, which they always conceive as God's 
creation. Thus, with A, his impression of the sea cul- 
minates in the exclamation, "O, Lord, how wonderful 
are thy works !" 1 Of kindred nature, the ritualistic 
service of the Catholic church exercises a special effect 
on the once-born believers. Surely the "sick souls" 
are susceptible to art's influences too, but for the 
healthy-minded they appear to be the most effective 
factors. In many experiences of the latter it is beside 
the point to ask whether they are of an aesthetic or 
a religious sort; perhaps that is true, too, of the 
devotees of nature, as described by E, who play an 
important role in the present youth movement. 

An extraordinary intensity of the accompanying 
feeling is characteristic of the religious experience as 
well as of the aesthetic, and these naturally increase 
the difficulty of distinguishing sharply between the 
two. Nature worship is interpreted off-hand as a 
religious experience by one for whom as for A. Messer 
everyone is religious, "for whom there are heights and 
depths of reality which he faces with awe ; yes, every- 
one for whose feeling and wishing there are values 
which are higher than his comfort and welfare and his 
profit." s In contrast with such conceptions, it should 

1 See p. 48. 

2 Messer, p. 166. 

'^esthetic Influences in Religious Development 93 

be pointed out that the appreciation of art like that of 
natural beauty is always an experiencing of the beauti- 
ful, which is enjoyed for its own sake. No question 
about the reality of the thing experienced is asked. 
On the other hand, in religious experience the existence 
and reality of the Deity is always presupposed, and 
for the devout nature is always a likeness, symbol, or 
expression of Deity. When E, who has completely 
broken away from belief in the Church admits that 
besides his "dry monism" he still has a "deep awe and 
admiration for nature," and speaks of a worshipful 
mood, it seems to me to indicate a longing which in the 
last analysis is after all still religious. 

Like every striking experience the religious, too, 
strives for a corresponding expression. The simple, 
sober form of diary notes no longer satisfied youth for 
experiences which carry with them the tone of the 
Majestic and Holy One. Strictly speaking there is no 
adequate expression for the deity and every word that 
is used means an incarnation and therefore a fore- 
shortening; yet to worship Him silently, as a consistent 
mysticism demands, is opposed to the storm and stress 
of the youthful soul. Through an exalted, poetic 
language, the youth tries to express his experience of 
God, though the experience of the break with God is 
also usually expressed in poetic form. If on the one 
side art is the means which lends suitable expression 
to the greatness of the religious life or even causes the 
inexpressible to be felt, on the other hand, for the 
youth with his lively fancy and his tendency toward 
extremes, there is a danger that in the fervor of lan- 
guage the originality of the experience may be lost or 
distorted. For that reason religious veracity appears 
to be particularly threatened. And in many cases it 

94 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

can hardly be said whether the attitude which gave rise 
to the poems was aesthetic or religious. 

When we turn to the content of the poems, we rec- 
ognize in the literary productions of younger children 
a simple repetition of biblical stories and ecclesiastical 
dogmas. Significant of this are "A Church Song" 3 
and the poem "The Entire Old Testament" * of a 
seven-year-old boy. In these and similar productions 
there is no trace to be found of a characteristic or per- 
sonal religious point of view. In the poems of older 
boys and young men, published by Giese, the negative 
direction of development appears conspicuously beside 
the positive. The ingress of the intellect is noticeable 
in the following lines : 

There are no miracles, 

You can be told, 

The only miracle is man's strength, 

So fight against all gods; 

Be Titans, be sons of Prometheus, 

Be men, as is fitting for you. 

This tendency toward the titanic, toward excessive 
elevations of the ego does not appear so prominently 
in the simple and objectively kept diary notes as it does 
in the poems. The adolescent imagining himself a 
Titan sees himself directly opposed to God, as the poem 
of an eighteen-year-old, styled "Confession," shows: 

Come, let us live, 

Free of the Godhood, 

Free of religion! 

We are almighty 

We shall live always 

In spite of the Lord God. 

8 Giese, Nos. 12 and 13. 
* Ibid., No. 159- 
? Jbid., p. 192, 

Aesthetic Influences in Religious Development 95 

The titanic consciousness, which represents the most 
extreme antipode of the feeling of religious depend- 
ence, is further found in the poems called "Vision" e 
of a thirteen-year-old, "First Poem" 7 of a sixteen- 
year-old, and "Man" " of an eighteen-year-old; like- 
wise it is shown by the closing lines of F's "Striking a 
Balance." 9 

Not a single one of the literary productions of fem- 
inine authors published by Giese contains "titanic" 
traces. The positive direction is not generally main- 
tained in girls' poems, and the intellectual element 
tends to disappear. All the more strongly do the feel- 
ing or emotional situations appear. Erotic traces are 
clearly recognizable in the poem "My Beloved" 
(Christ) 10 of a ten-year-old girl and "Longing" " of a 
poetess alleged to be still younger. Charlotte Biihler 
has already questioned these statements about age and 
spoken of "puberty-longing." 12 Some of the state- 
ments of age furnished by Giese seem to me to need 
verification, and I likewise consider it premature to 
assume a climax of poetic production as early as the 
thirteenth or fourteenth year. 13 At any rate, the 
authors of the manuscript material at my disposal did 
not until later years reach the point of expressing their 
religious thoughts in verse. F reports that his first 
poem appeared before his eighteenth birthday; B, D, 
and L did not compose poems until after the end of 
the fifteenth year; K's religious poems were begun in 

6 Ibid., p. 62. 

7 Ibid., p. 179. 

8 Ibid., p. 144. 

8 See Appendix, p. iao. 

10 Giese, p. 213. 

1 1 Ibid., p. 209. 

12 Biihler, p. 86. 

13 Ibid., p. 84. 

96 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

the eighteenth and nineteenth years. Just as Charlotte 
Biihler assumes, the climax of poetic creation is not 
reached in young men until after the eighteenth year. 

A fragment of a prose poem written by K in his 
twentieth year expresses his own religious thoughts 
through an ancient hermit. The recluse says: 
"Thousands of stars were sparkling in the canopy of 
heaven which turned my thoughts above, to heaven, 
to God. And then I fell down on my knees and out 
of my overflowing heart I prayed to Him who lives 
up there for us. And so I found the Highest, Whom 
we can find on earth ; so I found God ! I found Him 
not through silence, I found Him through my own 
soul." The experience here described shows features 
which are typical of the religion of many adolescents : 
The youth discovers his own soul ; it is his entrance to 
the kingdom of God from which it came. In K's poems 
this thought keeps recurring. 1 * For B, too, his own 
soul is a great mystery which he tries to penetrate. 15 

The adolescent is clearly conscious of his own spe- 
cial existence, and at the same time he suffers from his 
loneliness. 18 In his friend he seeks the fulfillment of 
himself; but he is often disappointed, and then a her- 
mit's life appears to him ideal. There is only One who 
never disappoints, the One to whom K prays: "O 
Father! Thou wast my only friend in my life's sor- 
rows !" 17 A prose poem by B treats of the flight of a 
young man to the solitude of the primeval forest. 
Here the fugitive meets a very old hermit, who tells 
of his experiences in the loneliness, and challenges his 
young guest to turn back: "Man should not flee from 

14 See Appendix K z, 2, 3. 

16 See Appendix B. 

18 Neu Bahnen, 1923, p. 101. 

17 See also Appendix K, 

Aesthetic Influences in Religious Development 97 

men, for only a brother brings another peace. ..." 
The longing for solitude and peace of soul, which B 
and K express in poetry, is what earlier caused many a 
youth to become a hermit or a monk. 

The thoughts of the hermit are turned to God by the 
contemplation of the starry sky. And this is another 
significant feature of the religious life of adolescence, 
that it is so strongly stirred by nature. In the verses of 
the adolescent as distinguished from those of a child 
there is seldom any hint that his religious thinking and 
feeling has received any special impulse through the 
church or other association, through history, literature, 
or individual personalities ; next to nature, it is most of 
all the blows of fate, such as sickness (A, C), or the 
death of beloved persons, which most enrich the 
religious life. (It has already been mentioned that 
nature worship does not have to be unqualifiedly 
religious; the "Prayers to the Sun" 18 of a sixteen- 
year-old poetess and the "Death in the Mountain 
Wood" of B 10 may serve as further proofs of 

The prayer-verses of adolescence give us an especial 
insight into the nature of its piety; for in prayer we 
see with Friedrich Heiler the "central phenomena of 
religion," and we understand youth's religion best and 
most immediately if we know its prayers. While the 
prayers of sixteen-year-old B made thoroughly primi- 
tive demands, at eighteen they bear unmistakable 
witness of a spiritual growth. In K's beautiful prayer- 
poems we notice the climax of youthful piety. No self- 
seeking request for bodily welfare, only warm grati- 
tude flows from his words: 

18 Giese, p. 238. 

19 See Appendix, p. 115. 

98 The Religious Development of Adolescents 


Thou wast my only friend in my life's sorrows ! 
Thou sentest me pain and anguish of soul 
And knewest its worth. 

1 retreated into myself, and oft, when my woe o'ercame me 

Thou wast near. 

I felt thy sway when the clouds covered the sky, 

And I found Thee when I could again behold the rays of sun. 

Tears soothed my sorrow: I thank Thee that I found tears. 

Thou permittedst me to feel deep joy when I could barely 

Everything comes from Thee, the gloom of life and its sun- 

And thus I feel Thy nearness, wherever I may be. 

I love Thee, my Father, mine only merciful God. 

Grant that I may enjoy the happiness of a pure heart! 

Unconditional devotion to the Highest and a trust- 
ing acceptance of all that comes from Him speak out 
of this prayer. The same writer feels the immediate 
nearness of God in another of his poems : 

I embraced Thee, my God, 
In fervent prayer 
Thou art so close to me, 
That I hardly dare breathe. 
I see Thee before me, my God! 
Thou hearest my prayer, 
And loosest my folded hands 
And fillest them with blessings. 

Here, sensations of sight, hearing and taste have 
become symbols to make the nearness of the deity very 
real; and thus nature in all her majesty and beauty is 
only the symbol of something incomparably higher and 
more exalted, which man only suspects but can never 
fully grasp or fathom. 89 

30 Cf. K 3, Appendix, p. 82. 

Aesthetic Influences in Religious Development 99 

The answer to the question, what is genuine religious 
experience and what is only assumed, can be answered 
only by considering each case separately. Though K, 
like many youths, speaks rather frequently of his soul's 
sorrow and takes it too tragically, this nevertheless 
appears to me to furnish no reason for doubting his 
religious sincerity. On the other hand, the poem of 
the ig-year-old F, "In Church," 21 in which is expressed 
regret over his lost faith, is "not entirely genuine, but 
partly assumed," as the composer himself explains. 
The same is true of L's poems, in which the pleasure 
he finds in the rhyme and in the poetic image often 
overshadows the religious experience. Just as there 
are some youths whose religion assumes a particular 
character through intellectual and socio-ethical ele- 
ments, so the narrow and often inseparable union of 
the religious and ethical experience is typical of others. 
Schleiermacher's beautiful saying holds for them: 
"Religion and art are close to each other, like two 
friendly souls whose intimate relationship, although 
they feel it, is nevertheless unknown to them. 23 Indeed 
the pedagogy of religion does not seem to have ade- 
quately recognized the significance of the artistic for 
religious training. 

21 Appendix, p. 121. 

22 Schleiermacher, p. 105. 



ONLY in exceptional cases may we speak of childhood 
religion. In general, however, it may be said that a 
real religious experience may have its start at that time. 
For as the child regularly imitates those about him in 
language and gesture, so he also adopts the thoughts 
and forms of religious tradition. Not till adolescence 
may we assert that there are evidences of real religion. 
Just as the opportunity to study and criticize works of 
art which comes toward the end of childhood either 
may develop one's appreciation to a really artistic 
level or may stifle it, 1 so aside from other influences, 
the intellectual milieu of youth brings about religious 
changes which may proceed in a positive or negative 

With what processes or occurrences are youth's 
first religious impressions connected? The diary- 
notes and verses contain no clear account. The literary 
productions disclose something of the course of the 
development, the factors influencing it and its goal; 
but of the beginnings no adequate observations can be 
made. In order to recognize the first religious impres- 
sions, and the experiences in relation to which they 
appear, and at the same time to determine how far 
the development has advanced at a certain age, the 

1 Cf. Kupky, Beobachten ilber die Entwicklung des Formeri. Z. f. 
angew. PsychoL, Bd, .12, S. 186, 189. 


Youth's "First" Religious Experiences 101 

descriptive method, used up to this time, was aban- 
doned. A questionnaire was prepared for the comple- 
tion and expansion of the observation-material already 
at hand. 

In six classes of higher vocational schools for girls 
in Leipzig the fifteen- to sixteen-year-old pupils were 
assigned the theme topic, "What Arouses My Rev- 
erence." Because the expression "reverence" was not 
entirely familiar to some of the girls, the following 
suggestions were given them: "In a church hymn the 
writer sings of Christ's birth : "When I try to under- 
stand, my spirit kneels in reverence." A similar feel- 
ing the poet Geibel expressed in his "Morning Stroll" ; 
he tells how everything awakes in nature, and "then 
adoration flows like a breath through all my senses.*' 
As in nature or in the house of God, our reverence 
may also be aroused through art or through events in 
the life of people. You (the girls in the school) are 
expected to report whether you have ever experienced 
anything of the sort." 

No further directions were given; an effort was 
made to avoid any possible copying or exchange of 
ideas on the part of the girls. Thirty-five minutes 
were allowed for working out the answer. Altogether 
148 themes were handed in in the six classes. Of these 
twenty, almost a seventh, were in no way related to the 
assignment; since this appears to have been thoroughly 
explained, it may be concluded that some of these 
pupils had never yet experienced reverence. Some did' 
not answer the assignment, probably purposely, in 
order not to lay bare an experience that is in their 
minds veiled in mystery and holiness. And among the 
girls who answered the question, doubtless some told 
this experience with reserve. Naturally a prerequisite 

loa The Religious Development of Adolescents 

for even partially satisfactory returns from question- 
naires in school classes is that the pupils have confi- 
dence in the questioner; but even then the sources of 
error appear to which I have already referred. 8 

Only a few of the 128 papers which contained clear 
answers showed any traces of religious experiences of 
a deeper sort; the style flows in the usual form and 
the note of feeling is seldom heard. When Stanley 
Hall writes 8 that on the basis of observations carried 
on for years he }ias arrived at the conclusion which 
surprised him and which is contrary to the common 
belief that the "budding girl" is utterly unreligious, 
he may have exaggerated the case, but at least there is 
no proof to the contrary to be found in these papers. 
Stanley Hall's assertion contradicts the experience of 
Mrs. Adolf Hoffman-Genf, who is one of the few who 
really know and understand girls. 4 Elizabeth Jaekel G 
similarly disagrees ; she writes that the "only spiritual 
interest" of country girls in Christianity is what they 
bring with them. In her opinion there is in this respect 
a difference between country and city youth. It can 
hardly be doubted that environment exercises a deci- 
sive influence on the religious interest. Not till later 
years, according to Stanley Hall, are girls supposed to 
be susceptible to religious experiences, and even then 
7oung men surpass them. 

If we now turn to the answers given to the question- 
naire, it appears that 68 out of the 128 point, to nature 
and its phenomena as the thing that awoke their rev- 
erence; here fundamentally religious and unreligious 
feeling for nature cannot be sharply distinguished. 

2 P. 17. 

8 Stanley Hall, Educational Problems, II, p. 21. 

* Frau A. Hoffman, p. 16. 
s E. Jaekel, p. 19. 

Youth's "First" Religious Experiences 103 

Since the girls who answered the question are, with few 
exceptions, children of large cities, who by experience 
are not often in close touch with nature, it is some- 
what surprising to hear what significance it has in their 
religious experience. One girl makes a report of a 
still winter night with a clear starry sky : "A feeling of 
great reverence came over me. I understood how God 
loves mankind. There one sees rightly how lowly is 
man and how grateful man should be to God." 
Another girl writes: "My heart throbs with deep 
emotion. It seems to me as if I were borne away into 
a better world. A feeling of holiness comes over me. 
I fold my hands and gaze reverently up to the sky, 
which is brimming over with stars." Next to the 
starry heavens the quiet of the woods is significant for 
the arousal of religious feelings ; one report reads : "A 
feeling of dread came over me, and at the same time 
the question arose: Who made all this? Was it rev- 
erence that came over me? I almost believe so. At 
that moment I became a better person. But the feel- 
ing lasted but a moment." 

In some answers God is thought of as thoroughly 
human : "But how wisely everything is arranged. . . . 
Everywhere we recognize the hand and finger of God." 
Nature awakens recollections of the Bible: "God 
made the whole world. First there were two persons, 
now they are countless." While in the examples 
already given, the Creator of the world is looked up 
to, in others He does not appear, and nature as such 
seems to be working alone; thus we read: "There are 
times when man's heart is thronged with conflicting 
feelings, confused thoughts and sensations, when he 
is not master of himself. At such moments one has to 
go out into majestic, exalted Nature, to find in her 

IO4 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

quiet greatness his balance of soul. When one becomes 
tetter acquainted with Nature and better understands 
her wonders, a deep reverence comes over him." 
Another says in describing a sunset: "As I was listen- 
ing to the slowly dying tones of the bell, I became con- 
scious of how small and insignificant we are in this 
world, and how we are almost nothing in all the great- 
ness; for I saw how much life Nature really conceals 
in herself and with what majesty everything is created. 
It was the first time in my life that I was ever so medi- 
tative and so melancholy." 

Far behind nature, that is in only 31 out of 128 
cases, were ecclesiastical forms and ceremonies named 
as the thing that awoke reverence. Protestant girls 
reported of their confirmation, that it awoke "holy 
feelings." "I do not know how it happened that the 
church seemed so different to me from before," writes 
one pupil. Another (not in the same class) : "The 
wide room had about it something holy and solemn." 
Still another wrote : "After walking up to the altar 
and partaking of the Lord's Supper, a peculiar feeling 
came over me. For a long time I was plunged in deep 
thought, and all day long I thought about this serious 
and solemn act." Not one of the Catholic girls present 
in the classes mentioned nature; they all reported on 
the powerful impression which their first communion 
had on them. In contrast with the usually very ani- 
mated descriptions of the first communion, 6 in which 
the aesthetic effect of the Catholic form of worship 
plainly appears, the reports of the Protestant girls on 
the effect of confirmation and communion seem some- 
what unenthusiastic. 

In the third place, in 1 8 cases, the life and f ate of 

6 Cf, Appendix, p. 130. 

Youth's "First" Religious Experiences 105 

man are given as the events through which reverence 
is aroused in young girls. One says of an old woman, 
a widow, whose son fell on the field of battle : "You 
never hear a complaint from his mother. She bears 
her lot so calmly that one cannot but have an involun- 
tary feeling of reverence of her." Another pupil 
describes an occurrence that agitated her deeply: "A 
woman jumped out of a car while the train was in 
motion; a soldier jumped after her, but he was killed." 
One's own, or a parent's illness is sometimes cited. 
One girl reports of the death of an aged relative: "I 
have stood at other biers, but I have never been so 
strongly moved as at this one. I think that comes from 
the fact that till now I had never really understood 
what death means, and this taught me the deepest 
reverence for God." 

In the last place, in 9 cases, art is named as the power 
which wakes reverence ; but it is immediately apparent 
how closely the aesthetic and the religious attitude are 
connected, and how hard it is to draw a line between 
them. Of the effect of the playing of the organ in 
church one writes: "It seemed to me as if another 
spirit were ruling in me." Another pupil writes: 
"Recently when I was attending one of Schubert's 
symphonies and hearing the notes rolling over each 
other, a feeling of reverence overcame me for Schu- 
bert's great spirit." Next to music, it is painting which 
arouses reverence; the art of poetry was not men- 
tioned. One of the pupils writes of the Sistine 
Madonna: "In the picture the painter has expressed 
all his reverence for the Highest, which is so force- 
fully conveyed to the beholder that he cannot but 
remain standing before it. This is what happened to 
me. I call that reverence." Similarly a pupil in 

io6 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

another class writes: "I could stand for hours before 
many beautiful paintings. They contain so much 
beauty and arouse in me the most varied feelings. 
With reverence and admiration we look on them (the 
great masters) and their work and cannot imagine 
how a man can create such beauty." These words 
show that we may class the last group with the pre- 
ceding: not only the noble man, but also the creative 
one, bears in himself the godly, and is to us like that 
example and pattern, "the unknown and higher Being 
whom we divine." 

To be sure, reverence represents only one phase of 
religion, but from this point we can take a general 
look at the awakening of the religion of adolescence. 
It is evident from the answers to the questions how 
beauty and the exalted in nature and art may bring 
about a religious experience. Now, according to 
Schleiermacher, external nature does not form "the 
inner holy of holies," but only the "outer vestibule" of 
religion; and neither the forces, nor the beauties of 
nature, nor even the world's wide expanse speak to the 
religious sense," but the orderly coherence of the 
world. Still it appears as if youth had to enter the 
outer vestibule 7 in order to reach the holy of holies. 

We possess 'evidence of this from Schleiermacher' s 
own youth in the description of a boat trip in the 
autumn of 1786 at the time when he and other "inde- 
pendent thinkers" were having a violent conflict with 
their pietistic teachers. 8 In an enthusiastically written 
essay young Schleiermacher thanks Providence, "which 
formed this beautiful nature and placed in my soul 
susceptibility to all the beauties of her creation," and 

7 Schleiermacher, p. 50 (78). 

8 Meyer, p. 213. 

Youth's "First" Religious Experiences 107 

his eye feeds on the wonders of nature "from the 
bright star to the lowly, despised blade of grass." 
These are the same notes that we hear in the reports 
of the school girls. 

The aesthetic factor is recognizable also in the sec- 
ond group of reports, when they tell of the effect of 
organ-playing, congregational singing, or the broad 
and high spaces of the church. Then ethical thoughts 
are awakened by confirmation and communion, which 
blend with the religious. We read: "When I was 
standing before the altar, the consciousness came over 
me that I had not yet completely fulfilled my life"; or 
"I could not help thinking that I had not always 
obeyed my parents and teachers." In nature the 
thought of one's own unworthiness sometimes appears ; 
but one does not then feel himself really conscious of 
guilt, but only "small and lowly." 

According to Schleiermacher, the inner life of man 
is supposed to mean much more to religion than 
external nature : "for in the inner life the universe is 
copied and the outer is comprehensible only through 
the inner." Above all, the Eternal is recognized not 
in ourselves, but rather in the human association. "In 
order to look upon the world and to be religious, man 
must first have found humanity," " both in the associa- 
tions of the present and in history. 

Did the girls find traces in themselves of true rev- 
erence toward man which, according to Goethe, is a 
"higher interpretation" of human nature? Not in 
many cases ; but yet in a few it appears as if the meeting 
with a particularly distinguished individual had been 
the starting point for a religious experience. On the 
contrary, there are no evidences that mankind as a 

9 Schleiermacher, p. 56 (89). 

io8 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

whole or the history of mankind awakened religious 
thinking and feeling. Cessation of intellectual activity, 
the significance of which for development has already 
been referred to, does not especially appear in the 
answers ; that is due, in part of course, to the choice of 

By way of summary, certain conclusions may be 
drawn concerning religious thinking in the narrower 
sense. Only in a few cases was God thought of in 
human form; a "spiritualization" of God had already 
taken place in most of the girls. Furthermore, even 
the thought of a personal God receded. That is no 
accident. Influenced by an environment which rejects 
the faith of the church, many girls came to a rejection 
of the concept of God which had been taught them in 
their religious instruction. In the romantic feeling 
toward nature that is expressed in some of the themes, 
we have to notice a sort of substitution for the religious 
longing, which is in others. It appears from the ques- 
tionnaire that the "first" religious impressions are 
often connected with aesthetic experiences ; and moral 
experiences may incite religious. On the other hand, 
intellectual experiences, which are not accompanied by 
intensity of feeling, appear to share only slightly in the 
awakening of religion. In many cases, blows of fate, 
such as severe sickness and death of a member of the 
family, cause the first lasting religious impressions. 



WHEN we are speaking of the religious development 
of adolescence, we do not imply that the religious func- 
tion is isolated and develops independently. In reality, 
the whole personality of a young person grows, and 
with it his religion. Still, the observation of religious 
development furnishes a remarkably clear insight into 
the beginning and growth of the youthful personality. 
In religion a person seeks to grasp at once the first 
source of all being and the height of all worth ; and so, 
in youth's struggles for the deepest and final meaning 
of existence, there is reflected the chaotic and Proteus- 
like quality, which is characteristic of the youthful 

Religion is a complex function. Elementary spirit- 
ual processes are, to be sure, recognizable in religious 
experiences but religion cannot be deduced or under- 
stood from them, as a sum of its component parts. In 
the essence and fundamental character of religion, 
there lies something more that can never be explained 
from elementary 'processes. 

The "first" religious impression contains in itself all 
of religion : God is seen as such in a moment of intense 
spiritual excitement; He "flares into being," as it were. 
In rare cases this happens as early as the end of child- 
hood, but ordinarily not before the beginning of 


no The Religious Development of Adolescents 

j puberty. One may not speak of religion in a child in 
ithe real, "fullest" sense. To the child God is always 
a man endowed with higher and mightter^powers. The 
child feels himself the center of existence ; experiencing 
God as the highest, incomparable worth is still denied 
him. For his future development, however, the 
"child's religion" is of greater significance. It fixes 
the inner eye on the awakening of real religion and 
gives meaning to the original religious experience. 
Thus religious teaching in childhood gains the signifi- 
cance of preparation and direction for the coming view 
of God. The first religious impression may be com- 
pared to the sudden appearance on the horizon of the 
end of the day's journey which is recognized as such 
because of the preceding preparation. 

In the case of a child one cannot properly speak of 
"religious" development; religious instruction usually 
produces a thoughtless taking over of religious ideas ; 
the child is highly receptive and accepts the religious 
like the other values of his environment because he has 
to. Youth finds out for himself, "spontaneously," the 
real meaning, the true significance of religious thoughts 
and values. He is not religious because he has to be, 
but because he wants to be. Therefore we may not 
speak of a religious development, of a steady growth 
from within, before adolescence. Religion is present 
in the first impression at the beginning of puberty, but 
it is not completely developed until the end of this 
p'eriod. In the beginning of development the religious 
experience is still entirely under the influence of the 
environmental society, and the first religious experi- 
ences have the form, moods, or feelings of worship, 
devotion, and reverence. Personal and conscious reli- 
gious conviction, pervading and determining the young 

The Main Outline of Religious Development 1 1 1 

person's whole spiritual life, seems to be the "goal" of j 

Criticism of the religious ideas and dogmas which 
the child has adopted may precede religious develop- 
ment through the influence of an environment of a dif- 
ferent sort one that is hostile to religion ; but It may , 
also check it. The child's criticism of religious thoughts 
is in itself not yet sure evidence that development has 
begun. Not till the consciousness awakes in the youth 
that religion has to do with matters which are of tre- 
mendous significance to his own life may his religious 
development begin ; and as a result of this insight he is 
restless, oppressed with his own inadequacy and sinful- 
ness. Only in rare cases does the development proceed 
gradually; generally its course is accompanied by vio- 
lent emotions which are increased by the emphasis 
given them by many religious bodies (Methodists, for 
instance) ; at conversion there comes a sudden, though 
not always a permanent tranquillity. In contrast with 
these denominations, some churches favor the gradual 
course ; but with them also it seldom takes place with- 
out inner conflicts and doubts. Since the "conversion" 
of young people is not attempted by these churches, a 
"mixed" course of development is what is found here; 
with increasing years the emotions lose strength, and 
gradually there comes a cessation of these states of 
excitement. The development may take either a posi- 
tive or negative direction. The environment of the 
adolescent exercises a special influence on the direction 
of his development, just as it does on its course. Even 
when the development continues to be positively 
directed, it seldom proceeds in a straight line, but 
shows waverings, .so that one does not with certainty 
recognize the real direction until at the end of adoles- 

112 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

cence. Positive religious development, as Litt has 
already pointed out, teaches that it is never a question 
of simple acceptance of the tradition of the society, of 
a mere "assimilation," but of a "particularization," o,f 
the whole personal embodiment of faith. 

Religious experience, as a specifically spiritual func- 
tion, follows the individual conditions of growth. It 
cannot be shown that youth's religion is exclusively 
determined by physical or by mental factors. Sexual 
libido is surely not its root or controlling principle : 
love may bring a heightening of the religious life but 
it is nevertheless only one influence among others, no 
more important than the intellectual attitude. It is 
significant of the spiritual peculiarity of youth that 
different moods often combat each other and that har- 
mony between them comes only at the end of the period 
of development. In the earlier years the inclination, 
characteristic of many youths, for clearing up an "intel- 
lectual doubt" has a predominantly analytical effect 
upon their religious thinking. But even then, when 
the development is in a completely negative direction, 
this can hardly be traced to the logical attitude of the 
individual alone, but likewise in part to a religious 
tendency that is weak in itself. When the religious 
tendency is strong, its development is hindered-neither 
by contrary inner inclinations nor by an unreligious or 
irreligious environment. In the later years the same 
(i.e., logical) intellectual attitudes continue, while the 
particular content of the religious experience is con- 
ceptually expressed, and the structure of a religiously 
founded view of the world and life is reared. 

In many cases, "moral doubts," raised by certain 
life experiences may influence religious development 
more strongly than the "intellectual doubt" which is 

The Main Outline of Religious Development 113 

traceable in part to the enlightening ideas of "natural" 
or rational religion, and in part to youth's own 
scientific thinking. This "moral doubt" about religion 
and God's kindness And justice sometimes comes with 
such force that it gives the development a negative 
turn. When it leads to a long estrangement, it is the 
sign of a strong religious tendency which is made 
stronger through the consciousness of sin and wins 
inner tranquillity through the experience of divine 
grace. The "moral" type of religious youth, compared 
with the very intellectual and aesthetic, experiences a 
development particularly rich in emotions. Corre- 
spondingly, the religious development of aesthetically 
inclined natures proceeds most calmly, whether it pur- 
sues a positive or negative direction. 

While the intellectual and moral factors have a 
particular effect on the course and direction of devel- 
opment, the "first" religious impression is acquired not / 
orily through sorrowful but also frequently through; 
esthetic experiences, climaxes of youthful religion: 
being often connected with experiences of the beautiful 
and exalted m nature and art. In his verses youth tries 
to give his religious thoughts suitable artistic expres- 
sion. The youth's poetry and diaries show that his 
religion has the character of longing. In the literary 
productions which we consider particularly religious, 
as in the notes of B, C, and N, is told again and again 
the longing which is never entirely stilled for a richer 
and more complete life. In briefer form, a poem of 
the seventeen-ysar-old O expresses the seeking for 
the Highest ("When shall my yearning find its 
Lord?" 1 Not before the end of adolescence does the ! 
search for the value of all values find its fulfillment.; 

1 See pp. 125-126. 

H4 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

Even though Bohne, like Starbuck, distinguishes three 
periods of development: "a first climax of religious 
life, a time of religious estrangement, and a second 
climax in which the religious development reaches its 
conclusion," this conception is not confirmed by the 
literary productions. The diary-notes teach, rather, 
that after the first impression, which awakens the 
sense of the holy and divine, the material of faith 
received in childhood is compared and strengthened by 
it. Doubts arise which are overcome by new religious 
experiences. These in turn are doubted, and further 
new experiences carry the development forward. This 
process, which is accompanied by so many periods of 
excitement and calmness, finally in the religious youth 
ends in the conviction that Inner tranquillity comes 
solely by yielding to God. With St. Augustine youth 
admits at the end of his development: "Cor meum 
irrequietum est, donee requiescat, Domine, in Te." 



19 years old. 

I work and sweat 
And hew my world. 
And even yet. 
If ruin swirled 
Destruction sent, 
My blood's cement. 
But if it does not want to be, 
Then let it crash 
And bury me, 
My world of love. 

17 years old. 


I would die in a mountain wood 

In the evening's gold-lit pall 

Outpouring my weary life 

Into the silent All. 

I would watch my bleeding songs die, 

My fiddle smash on a tree, 

Fling the songs to the serpents' dens 

And woefully cry to thee. 

1 See p. 82. 
6 Pp. 82, 97. 

n6 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

Then thou, my mother, wouldst hear, 
Wouldst hasten to cover me tight, 
Wouldst rock me gently to sleep. 
How I love thee, Mother Night! 
Thou holdest me closer to thee 
Embracing and comforting well, 
Thou Brother Storm greet Lady Sun 
And take her quickly my farewell. 

18-19 years old. 


O, my soul, plunge quickly, sink deep within thyself, 

See whether in thy mirror gray (of consciousness) thou dost 

know thyself. 

O, my soul, seek darkly in the sea (of consciousness) for thee 
Whether thou mayest find myself and so be known to thee. 
O my soul pray tell me, tell me more of thee 
O my soul pray bring thyself, O my soul, to me (to conscious- 
ness, to recognition). 


1 8 years old. Diary notes. "A lingering illness has 
brought me farther toward religious feeling. I found 
my God, and I really considered as stupid persons like 
S, who once said to me after my sickness : I think you 
believe something. This conviction remained in me in 
spite of the anti-religious speech of Doctor N (the 
natural science teacher) in the Quart a; now and then I 
recognize the truth of such speeches, but that cannot 
alter my conviction one iota ; I cannot live without 
religion. I remember those hours in the hospital, 
where I wanted to pray and could not. Lessing's 
thoughts correspond to my thinking: Not the circum- 

3 cf. p. 9 6. 

4 See p. 83, 

Appendix 117 

stance that a certain Christ lived 2000 years ago makes 
me religious, but the fact that thru him many are made 


18^2 years old. "Many people ascribe to fate 
everything that they cannot explain. In such circum- 
stances I come to the question: Why do they call it 
fate? Anyone, who admits there is such a thing as 
fate, can also call this power God. With the word 
fate many will have, I suppose, also, jthe idea of a 

"I am not interested for myself alone, but feel 
myself compelled to help others, yes even want to 
strive to be able to help others. I pass harsher judg- 
ments than formerly on sermons and worship. At 
the promotion of the sixth class boys, E preached on 
Eph. 3:16 about the inner man. The sermon is wit- 
ness of the fact that Director E is not a deep-thinking, 
religious man. On the other hand, a service which the 
same conducted next day again stirred my religious 
thinking. It had for a text : Ascend." 

19 years old. "For a long time I have not acknowl- 
edged God's son-ship (Jesus). Contradictions with 
natural science ! I consider Jesus a wholly simple man 
of unusual tenderness, in whom there was a strong 
sympathy for all the sufferings of mankind. His rela- 
tion to God is a peculiar gift. He appears to me to 
be for Christianity what Mohammed is for Islam. His 
greatness lies in His depth of thought and in the fact 
that He gives to so many peace of soul ; He has really 
recognized the needs of the soul." 

19 years old. Cause : death of a fellow pupil. "Why 

1 1 8. The Religious Development of Adolescents 

should this splendid fellow just in the flower of his 
youth have to die ? It is not difficult to find an explana- 
tion of that. He had lived a spiritual life, had thought 
much, had high ideals. He must often have thought: 
'If only this wretched injustice and lovelessness were 
put out of the world!' The goals toward which he 
strove were more than the life of man. His death 
will make them (his teachers) think, who did him any 
injustice. If there is still any good in them, they will 
learn better. That this change is of advantage only to 
others cannot injure so high a character. With death 
he has attained what his braver thought pursued as 
the highest goal. My task will be to help the poor 
and miserable ; if heaven should give me strength, the 
will shall not be wanting." 

20 years old (during a sickness, to his parents) : "If 
God should have decided differently for me, be satis- 
fied with the certainty that His will rules us. His love 
can free men from their pain. We often sorrow for 
the loss of our kind, because we do not understand that 
the Lord God can accomplish good even thru Death!" 


1 8 years old (against compulsion in religious mat- 
ters). 6 "Prayer and repentance-day bells are decoy- 
ing to church. This compulsion to go so regularly to 
church, is an everlasting, nauseous abomination. One 
sits there like an imbecile and stares at people who do 
not concern one at all; tries to sleep and seldom suc- 
ceeds, out of sheer boredom sings a verse with the con- 
gregation, and sighing deeply goes home ! My letters 
home cause me much trouble humbug repentance 
day desperation ! 

6 Cf. P. 58. 

Appendix 119 

19 years old (at the death of a friend) 1 : "Farewell! 
You were ours; we are thanking you while we are 
escorting you for the last time. Accept thanks for your 
songs ! Perhaps I am the only one to thank you for 
just this, for I felt them very differently, I reveled, 
sang, loved, and drank. You were misjudged, but 
you are out of danger now, you whose soul once moved 
in harmonies ; now your music is for the blessed realms 
on high. How often your playing pleased us; it was 
artistry, it was nature, it was laid in your cradle for 
comfort." (After the burial.) 'To be human, and 
to die, these belong together like water and the sea! 
Earth to earth. Dust to dust. Ashes to ashes !' We 
do not understand why you have to leave us now. And 
no Christ helps us, yesterday or today you have to ! 
Yes, I understand this 'have to' but I don't want to 
hear it from the mouth of the priest, for my God is 
different from what the preacher represented Him to 
me. Live your life, it is so fair and He who gave it 
is great and good 1" 



"Stimulated by my confirmation, I had begun to 
occupy myself more deeply with the Christian doctrine, 
and had succeeded so far that I believed in God. I 
imagined Him as a great spirit. In spite of many a 
struggle, I was tolerably complacent in my belief. But 
in the depths of my soul I was not satisfied. There 
were many doubts. I thought that with time I should 
reach inner peace and steadfastness of faith, because 
I fancied myself on the right road. I reached fifteen 
years of age. Then, however, a sudden revolution 
took place in me. Almost at the same time everything 

I2O The Religious Development of Adolescents 

that I had believed before was dissipated. I actually 
got hold of all sorts of books of information about 
earth and heaven and out of them all I created my 
new view of the world. I couldn't help seeing the 
emptiness of my former belief. Almost at once it 
went to pieces in me. I discovered that I did not stand 
entirely alone in my new opinion when I came to read 
the catechism of the monistic view of the world drawn 
up by the great nature investigator and scholar, 
Haeckel, who has but recently died. There I found 
assembled everything that I in the course of time had 
painfully collected piece by piece for myself I" e 

1 8- 1 9 years old. 

Of a better life beyond us 
Let the people oft relate. 
Thou believedst it in thy childhood, 
Dreams and chains disintegrate. 
For if thou wouldst learn to live here, 
Fret not of Eternity. 
If from out thy earthly body 
Soars a spirit happily, 
Wouldst thou, heaven-seeking mortal, 
Earthly child of time and space, 
Live a life that lasts forever, 
Thyself before God's throne abase ? 
Canst thou live the life there? Never. 
And if in other form thou'lt be, 
Whether that for Heaven be chosen 
Shouldst thou have anxiety? 
Cease thy searching for another, 
In the present live thy life ! 

9 See, further, p. 91. 

Appendix 121 

Listen to thy inner voices, 
Listen to the earthly strife 
And of this world a member be. 
Believe what thou dost do and see. 

19 years old. 


The multitude is hushed and still 
The priest to the pulpit climbs, 
Like marble upward turns his face, 
Like a bell his full voice chimes 
Word on word; and like a hymn 
He speaks. As the organ peals 
I knew that here there was a man 
Who God as Father feels. 
A gentle sadness filled my heart, 
Which tried me many a day, 
That shattered is my dream of God, 
That I ne'er again can pray. 


Incomprehensible Thy ways O God! 

With Thee near, joy and sorrow shake my soul. 

For happiness and grief just as thou wilt 

Thou givest men, who know not why they live ! 

Atonement wouldst thou have them make for sin 

Of which they guiltless ar,e. They rise against 

Thy dispensation, but they naught avail. 

Yet gavest Thou them a soul to suffer grief, 

And high and noble pleasure to enjoy. 

Incomprehensible, eternal God: 

Out of Thyself createdst Thou the soul! 


Man's only true possession is his soul! 
For everything that thrills an earthly heart 

7 Pp. 97-98. , 

122 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

Is idle emptiness! The selfsame hour 
That pleasure brings doth carry it away. 
But not so man's inseparable soul 
Which only death alone is granted power 
To bear from earth unto a better life. 


How shall I ever fathom Thee, my God 

In thy deep unfathomable meaning? 

How shall I e'er the right solution find 

Of when thou sendest joy and when distress? 

Too full of brooding over what we are. 

We think, and seek; and he who has found God, 

Can he in his own power e'er more believe? 


17 years old. 


For peace it was my heart did yearn; 
I thought and read, but still forlorn 
Because I feared it would not come. 
I wrote a poem the morrow morn. 
But greater grew my yearning hope, 
I sought the out-of-doors that day. 
Within a wood I found a church, 
I entered in and read: Just pray! 

J 7/^ years old. 


"Courage is the touchstone of thy faith." 
"Doubt means to malign the welfare of thy soul." 



1 8 years old. Diary. "Today we had an interesting 
debate in the class in religion. K (the teacher of 
religion) went a long way, as always, for he is gen- 

8 P. 99- 

9 On p. 69. 

Appendix 1 23 

erally a fine fellow. He even went as far as Schleier- 
macher's formulation of what may be called religious. 
But for me that was much too little. I called religious 
all that moves a person to the deepest emotions, that 
makes him good. Thus, said I, one can be religious in 
his love even if it is for a woman. Of course, I could 
not say any more to him. Otherwise I should have 
added: Anyone can be religious in the moments of 
highest pleasure, when he completely receives the 
woman into his embrace. Of course K would not have 
understood. So we could not agree, and I suddenly 
stopped. But I am very sure of my formulation which 
came to me naturally while we were talking, for I 
had not thought on the matter before. And naturally 
every church refuses this conception of what is reli- 
gious, for the church seeks valiantly for men who are 
not religiously inclined (see my friend L. F., theolog- 
ical student)." 

1 5 y* years old. 


The soul is now free 
From earth's monotony. 
All need hath now an end, 
For God his peace shall send. 
Is aught in death to daunt? 
Freeing from every want. 
All fears by then are past 
The soul is free at last. 


(Dedicated to the Bible Class) 
The day's work now is ended for today, 
And it is darkening in the west. 
While each now homeward wends his weary way, 
Where he can find his welcome rest. 

124 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

With God's help is the day's work fully done, 
May God protect us from Dark's might. 
So let us thank him for his favor won, 
And pray He'll guard us through the night. 

And even when at last life's measure's meted, 

He will not let us be affright. 

Then will he say: "It is completed," 

And light us on our way that night. 

Thus in death's anxious somberness, 

Jesus our Lord we shall behold. 

In him we ever find true helpfulness 

On earth as in the heavenly fold. 

17 years old. "Blessed are they who have overcome 
the spirit, for they have saved their souls from death 
on earth. It is the spirit which denies God and the 
eternal life. It cannot rule where the heart, the living, 
true emotion has a right to be, in religion." 

i7 l / 2 years old (incipient doubts). "You have to 
go inwardly bankrupt in order to find God. But there 
are people and they are not the worst ones who 
meet inward ruin, and do not find God. Who can 
help them? 

1 8 years old. N is writing an autobiography. He 
reports in it about his joining a Bible class. "The 
B. C. made me a pessimist, for I considered every little 
mistake fatal, and impotently comforted myself with 
the expiatory death of my Master. ... I remember one 
Sunday. The activities of the world disgusted me. I 
had the feeling: It is all evil. And a dismal anxiety 
seized me. What all of a sudden had become of my 
faith? But I clung desperately to the B. C., and tried 
to bring my friend [whom he had found] to the 
Savior. What a fool I was ! We talked all day about 
religion. I was deeply moved and sad, that he could 
not agree. He was a free man and youthful. He 

Appendix 125, 

declared that life is joyous and that he did not under- 
stand sin in the sense that I did." For about two years 
N remains under the consciousness of sin ; in his despair 
he is near suicide. He finds another friend with whose 
help he attains a view of life that is comforting to 
him; "That my friend believed in me, gave me 
strength. And with the awakening of nature I, too, 
awoke to life. My friend and I go out alone. We 
live, we love nature. Feeling is victory. I love life. 

No one here can ever rob me 
Of what insight deep doth give, 
Of my simple faith, and childlike, 
That within my soul doth live. 
Thus comes reconciliation 
With dissensions of mankind, 
Let the scoffers hurl derisions, 
Here thou joyfulness canst find. 
And his guilt is him forgiven 
Who feels deeply, purified, 
And who finds in nature's kindness 
All his yearning pacified." 

Later N came back to the Bible Class; the ip-year- 
old seems to have finally overcome the consciousness of 
guilt and sin, that troubled him in his early youth. 


1 7 years old. 

Dark Night Splendor of the stars. 
From afar the sound of bells finds its way to me. 
Now it is near, now far away. 
Ever near and yet so infinitely far; 
And Thou, O God! I seek Thee! 
Ah, no! 

10 On p. 113. 

The Religious Development of Adolescents 

Only a gentle yearning stirs my soul, 

For whom is it meant? God, 

Who are Thou? 

And as I wandered thru the starry night 

A voice behind me called : 

" 'Tis I 'Tis I, Whom thou 

Hast sought in many an hour." 

There is fulfillment for every yearning. 

"It is I. I am the firmness for thy 

Uncertainty. Wouidst thou find Me, 

Wouldst thou join the battle I require, 

Wilt thou venture it?" 

I spake: "Yea, Lord, I hear Thee. 

I believe! Now have I found Thee. 

I know Thee. And Thou art mine forever. 

And can I be entirely healed of Thee, 

I will be Thy faithful follower. 

Why shall I still strive 

To be one with Thee? 

For Thee, and yet not to win Thee." 

For a single hour gave me what I sought. 

Then spake the voice: "Ah, no! 

Until now hast thou naught but knowledge of Me, 

And, mayhap, belief. 

But thou art not yet one with Me. 

For me thou must still fight; 

Thou standest at the entrance, at the portal 

Where thou sawest Me, where thou hast 

Willingly received My words. 

Now take on thyself a heavier burden." 

Thus spake the voice. 

And a gentle zephyr stirred. And all at once 

Sounded the bells more loudly 

And the voice was lost on the wind. 

And again sounded the bells now near now far away 

O woe 

When shall my yearning find its Lord ? 

Appendix 127 

1 8 years old. 

My hands are cold and dead, 
But when Thy will inspires 
Blood flows and they grow red: 
They raise cathedral spires. 

God, Thou still small voice, 
Thou great Infinity, 

How can I comprehend 
Thee, Thou Eternity. 
Child, Seer, Thou Limitless 
How Named art Thou, Nameless? 

1 feel and know thou art, 
But lose the way to Thee. 
If me Thyself didst choose, 
Oh show Thyself to me. 


If only impulse dark from me would fall 
And I erect could stand, 
On up to my high destiny I'd gaze, 
Yearning from the land. 
But I am so bound 
With chain and hook 
That every look 
Ope's a new wound. 
I have no strength alone. 
Man himself is weak. 
'Tis Thee, O God, I seek, 
Creator of Thine own. 


O God Thou art a mighty sea, 
An endless time, a towering height, 
How helplessly I seek for Thee! 
Art Thou far beyond my sight? 

128 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

Willing are my fumbling hands 
To perform Thy dear behest. 
Empty now my yearning stands, 
If in Thee I may not rest. 

Behold, who can his task complete 

If to his art he's not confined. 

Why in eternal strife . compete 

If one no single stone can find? 

Show me the stone for it is Thou. 

That only it were squared by me! 

Before Thee I abjectly bow. 

O Holy One, I would build Thee. (Abbreviated.) 


16-17 years old. 


"O Gertrude, if you could only comprehend my love ! 
I am about crazy, and would like to leave the house 
at once; then again I feel so fortunate in the thought 
of loving you, and I beg God to turn your love to me." 

(A few months later:) 

"I dream myself ten years ahead, by your side your 
husband, a beautiful dream; who can fulfill it? God, 
Thou alone I O, grant that my love may not be extin- 
guished, grant that it may be cherished by Gertrude's 
answering love for me ! Amen." 

"We have a social-democrat in our class, who will 
drive everyone distracted if he is not somehow made 
harmless. It is H. I have always considered him a 
free thinker, but not capable of such thoughts as he 
brought to light today. The fellow does not believe 
in anything any more. He treats religion with outright 

11 On p. 75. 

Appendix 129 

contempt calling it mummery. He thinks we should 
ask God, if there is one, to blow the organ (in church) 
for him. But I hid my feelings from him, though he 
may be sure, altho I am not exactly his enemy, that I 
will report him later if as teacher he leads children 

19-20 years old. Diary. "I shall soon be twenty 
years old. And now it is time to be serious, which is 
not hard for me. I should like to assert first what I 
believe. But that is so difficult; too easily the next 
hour brings to nothing what is considered high and 
holy. Nothing is sure. I am not sure of myself or of 
anything else. I cannot avoid the thoughts and wishes 
that come to me that I should not have. Only God is 
sure. One can depend on Him, and even when they 
shout: there is no God it is not true. I believe in 

Four years ago I was confirmed. How immature 
I was then and I had to make such an important vow 
or rather confession, and that says and means even 
more I often turned it over in my mind and read 
much about it. And I am happy that I can say again : 
I believe in Jesus It is hard to find one's way among 
the varying views and thoughts. But faith is so beau- 
tiful man cannot know everything he is only a piti- 
ful little creature. He would be lost without the 
kindly Leader above. How beautiful it is if one can 
live. Difficult only, if one says to himself that he 
must give account of everything that he does or does 
not do. The guilt soon becomes gigantic. The spirit 
is willing, but the flesh is weak. And how easily one 
is persuaded to do something that one in his heart 
would like to do " 

130 The Religious Development of Adolescents 

Answer of a fifteen-year-old school girl to the ques- 
tion: "What aroused my reverence." 12 

"When I think of reverence, I always think of the 
day of my first holy communion What a fullness of 
blessedness flooded my heart, as I stood at the window 
in a white dress and a myrtle wreath and looked out 
on flowering nature. I could not control my jubilant 
and rejoicing soul. From my overflowing heart rang 
out the song: 'Jesus, Jesus, come to me.' Then I 
found myself in church and listened reverently to the 
words of the preacher. He pointed out how Jesus, the 
children's friend, had so loved the little ones. He told 
how pleased they had been when He lovingly drew 
them to him and blessed them. How happy must the 
children have been then! But we were a thousand 
times happier than they. Would that Jesus would just 
enter our hearts. As I meditated on this loving kind- 
ness, I became very reverent, so that I hardly dared 
breathe. And ever nearer came the time, when I was 
to receive my Lord and Creator, Him, the holy, 
immeasurable God, who has such everlasting great 
love for us poor children. Then came the holy moment 
in which my soul sank in the sea of love. . . . But I can- 
not describe in words the feeling which I then experi- 
enced. Words for that are only poor, empty noise. 
There was in me a great fullness of blessedness and of 
holy, pure joy. Every fiber of my feelings belonged 
to my Creator. At that moment I would have so liked 
to die. Die ! O, it is no real death, it is only just the 
releasing of our poor body, in order that the soul thus 
freed may hasten back to the arms of its first Parent, 
its Creator." (Abbreviated.) 
ia See p. 103. 

Appendix 131 


(One of Many Newspaper Notices) 

"In Berlin two girls jumped from the Schilling 

Bridge into the Spree. Someone succeeded in rescuing 

one of the girls; the other, a sixteen-year-old worker, 

Else Schmidt, sank quickly and was drowned. The two 

girls had recently been to a woman who told fortunes 

with cards, who said to Else Schmidt that a misfortune 

was coming to her. From that time the girl was 

obsessed with fear." 

Eisenacher Zeitung, June 15, 1914. 

13 On p. 88. 



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