Being the multi-faceted reality that it is, religion can be approached from any number of different angles. It is commonly defined as the relationship of man to an absolute, like God. But as that definition may already be too narrow , there are those who prefer, for example, to speak in terms of the idea of the Holy. If this relationship is taken more concretely, however, still other possible angles of approach suggest themselves. For instance, the relationship of man to God may be spoken of as the abandonment of self-will in order to live according to the will of God; as the vision or knowledge of God; or, as the unveiling of God to the self, or in the self. Again, it may be thought of as the immediate perception of the absolute dependency of self-existence on divine exis­ tence, or as man's becoming one with God. One might as well pursue the view that it is only in religion that man becomes truly himself, that the self encounters its "original countenance." Furthermore, it is possi­ ble to regard the essence of religion, as Schleiermacher does in his Reden uber die Religion, as the intuition of the infinite in the finite, as "feeling the Universe." On a variety ofcounts, ofcourse, each ofthese views is open to criticism. Rather than enter any further into their discussion
here, I should like instead to approach religion from a somewhat different angle, as the self-awareness of reality, or, more correctly, the real self-awareness of reality.
By the "self-awareness ofreality" I mean both our becoming aware of reality and, at the same time, the reality realizing itself in our awareness. The English word "realize," with its twofold meaning of "actualize" and "understand," is particularly well suited to what I have in mind here, although I am told that its sense of"understand" does not necessarily connote the sense of reality coming to actualization in us. Be that as it may, I am using the word to indicate that our ability to perceive reality means that reality realizes (actualizes) itself in us; that this in turn is the only way that we can realize (appropriate through understanding) the fact that reality is so realizing itself in us; and that in so doing the self-realization of reality itself takes place.