Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Professor R. A. Rempel
The present study may be viewed, at one level, as a spiritual biography of Bertrand Russell during the period from 1888 to 1914. I have taken as my starting-point Russell's adolescent speculations and subsequent abandonment of his childhood faith. This "loss of faith", one of the most characteristic cultural phenomena of the Victorian era, was a much more significant episode in Russell's life than his autobiographical writings have suggested. Like many of the mid-Victorian "honest doubters", he retained what Carlyle called the "aftershine of Christianity", a profound need for reverence and worship which could not be satisfied by a creed of scientific materialism.
I have traced the evolution of Russell's religious ideas from the time of these early struggles to his emergence as a spokesman for the "scientific outlook" in 1913-14. However, this is not intended to be a detailed analysis of Russell's religious philosophy. My aim has been primarily historical -- to examine the growth of these ideas in relation to the prevailing assumptions and dilemmas of the time.
Although this study puts forward concepts and information concerning Russell which, as far as I know, are new, its chief claim to originality lies in the approach that has been adopted. By combining spiritual biography with what may be called psycho-historical analysis, I have tried to bring known facts and recognised attitudes into new relations with each other thereby giving them fresh significance.
My conclusions have been based on an extensive analysis of the source materials available in the Bertrand Russell Archives, with particular reference to Russell's journals and personal correspondences. The range of secondary sources consulted includes selections from the literary works of the period, critical and historical material and biographies.
Sams, Richard, "Bertrand Russell's Spiritual Development and the Victorian Crisis of Faith. 1888-1914" (1979). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 266.