Wordtrade LogoWordtrade.com
World Religion


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Albert Eustace Haydon, 1880-1975

A Good Life in a World Made Good: Albert Eustace Haydon, 1880-1975 by Creighton Peden (American Liberal Religious Thought: Peter Lang Publishing) Creighton Peden is a scholar of 19th and 20th century, liberal theology who, for this book, was able to draw upon previously unavailable original sources - lectures, notes, and radio broadcasts. When it comes to research, understanding, and appreciation of the topic, Peden is without peer. A Good Life in a World Made Good: Albert Eustace Haydon, 1880-1975, chronicles Haydon’s journey from evangelical Christian to religious humanism - pausing along the way to engage world religions. Always faithful in the pursuit of truth, Haydon was equally interested in the development of human character. No theologian, preacher, or student of American religious thought could fail to benefit from reading this intellectual biography.

This intellectual biography reveals Albert Eustace Haydon’s growth from a pre-scientific Christianity to a scientific study of religions in light of evolution and pragmatic philosophy. Replacing G. B. Foster in comparative religion at the University of Chicago in 1919, Haydon became one of the most important figures in the development of humanism as a religious movement in North America, providing leadership in the writing of the first Humanist Manifesto in 1933. Today Haydon’s writings remain a most important interpretation of religions from a humanist perspective. This work will be valuable to classes which deal with philosophical, religious, social, and intellectual thought in North America since Charles Darwin.

Excerpt: A. Eustace Haydon was one of the pioneers in what today we call Religious Studies. He was a well-versed and sophisticated researcher in this field. He was also a creative skeptic who nevertheless held to the importance of the religions of the world. Not only is his stance, that of an appreciative skeptic, relevant today, but the details of his conclusions are still useful. This book is the first major study of Haydon.

From one perspective Haydon represents the furthest extreme to which liberal Protestant theology could be pushed in the early 20th century (before the Death of God became a by-word in the late 1960's). Looked at from another viewpoint, he was one of the most important figures in the develop­ment of humanism as a religious movement in North America, providing leadership in the writing of the first Humanist Manifesto in 1933. He was Leader of the Chicago Ethical Society, now the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago, from 1945-1956. In terms of his academic context, Haydon and Douglas Clyde Macintosh, the Yale theologian, represent divergent legacies of George Burman Foster, the radical theologian of Chicago. Simply put, Macin­tosh developed a theistic theology; Haydon became a scholar of the world religions with a non-theistic outlook.

Haydon's writings continue today as one of the most important interpreta­tions of human religions from a humanist perspective. In this regard, he ranks with George Santayana's Reason in Religion (1905) and with Loyal Rue's Religion is Not About God: How Spiritual Traditions Nurture Our Biological Nature and What to Expect When They Fail (2005).

Some aspects of Haydon's mature ideas should be kept in mind in reading Peden's account. Haydon was a pioneer in North America in the self-conscious scientific study of the world's religions. Serious reading in the non-Christian religions dates back in the United States to the New England Tran­scendentalists. However, Haydon was one of the first in America to dedicate his entire scholarly career to the academic study of the religions of the world.

Haydon was one of the very first to realize that religion should be studied scientifically and then to devote serious attention to understanding what this means. As he saw it, one major task in the scientific study of religion was to avoid bias. Obviously this meant avoiding the bias which comes from selecting data or forming theories which purport to show the superiority of one's own religious viewpoint. But Haydon was aware that a crudely conceived scientific approach could also bring its own biases. For him this type of bias was mainly a matter of a scientific theory that achieved a premature conclusion, a harden­ing of an hypothesis into a dogma. Such pseudo-scientific dogmas include a methodological imperialism which concludes that a specific method alone is valid, a linear evolutionary scheme of religious development, and the reduc­tion of the complex phenomena of religion into a simple theory, what today we would call "essentialization." He never claimed that over-coming bias would be easy, but he did claim that it was vital.

Two-thirds of a century later different voices would raise questions about Haydon's approach. Some post-modernists, who believe that social location permeates our constructions of reality, might hold that the overcoming of bias is an impossible task, reflecting a naive distinction between subjectivity and objectivity. Others would hold that this extreme postmodernism has given up the task of challenging the distortions of social location and that the task of minimizing, if not of avoiding, bias is both necessary and important to pursue.

An important part of the scientific study of religion, for Haydon, was the search for the correct definition of religion, a topic to which he gave much attention. His oft-repeated claim, that religion is the shared quest for the good life, deserves note. It has the virtue of avoiding the problem of defining relig­ion in terms of belief in one or more gods, an approach which eliminates Theravada Buddhism, the Confucian and Daoist traditions, and Hindu monism from consideration as religions and which often skews the study to the Abrahamic religions. Haydon's definition contrasts with a common approach which defines religion as an orientation to the ultimate. His definition is similar to the approach which defines religion in terms of a quest for salvation. In his wording Haydon casts the net so widely that it could easily include group therapy, Marxism, racial or national chauvinism, and consumerism, phenomena that Paul Tillich called "quasi-religions."

Finally Haydon was appreciative of the religions of the past, but was also concerned to help chart the way of the religion of the future. His definition allows humanism to be the movement which can finally make real progress in the task of religion through the use of human cooperation employing the means provided by science. Haydon had a tempered yet vibrant optimism premised on his idea that humans are the growing edge of the cosmos and that religion was entering a new stage which would help this growth.

This book is a judicious combination of biography and exposition of Hay-don's ideas. Peden has done a splendid job of working through the major and minor writings and correspondence of Haydon, and distilling both his histori­cal and his contemporary relevance. The story of his life is important. To understand Haydon we should read him in some ways akin to his own ap­proach to understanding the religions of humanity—with a combined apprecia­tive and critical stance. This means to read him sympathetically as a living person struggling through the issues of his time. In particular this means reading Haydon against the background of his early immersion in and preach­ing of a fairly traditional Baptist world view at the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century, in his struggles at the University of Chicago to free himself of this tradition, and as he develops an appreciative understanding of the religions of humanity which enables him to shape a new religion of the future. Peden nicely fills out this background and also brings out the human side of Haydon, including his relation to his parents, his athletic skills and his foibles.

Peden writes this book in what he calls the "historical present." As he ex­pressed it to me, in most biographical writing the reader lives in the present and reads about what happened in the past in the light of our present under­standing. This approach can lead to the "fallacy of hindsight," in which the reader passes judgment on historical events and ideas out of a context based on current information. In this book the "historical present" attempts to avoid the "fallacy of hindsight" by inviting the reader to place herself as a participant in Haydon's emergence from a conservative Baptist setting to become a Hu­manist Pioneer. This approach helps us appreciate Haydon's tremendous intellectual struggles with the Darwinian Revolution and the increasing knowledge of all of the world's faiths. This book marks a continuation of Peden's previous scholarly accomplishments in bringing alive for us the heritage of American religious radicals, especially Francis Ellingwood Abbot, William James Potter, and several members of the so-called "Chicago School of Theology." 

Pragmatism And the Rise of Religious Humanism: the Writings of Albert Eustace Haydon, 1880-1975: The Conception of God in the Pragmatic Philosophy, Volume 1 edited by Creighton Peden, John N. Gaston (Edwin Mellen Press)

Pragmatism And the Rise of Religious Humanism: the Writings of Albert Eustace Haydon, 1880-1975: Secular Religion And the Public Addresses by Albert Eustace Haydon, Volume 2 edited by Creighton Peden, John N. Gaston (Edwin Mellen Press)

Pragmatism And the Rise of Religious Humanism: the Writings of Albert Eustace Haydon, 1880-1975: Meditations on Man and the Radio Talks, Volume 3 edited by Creighton Peden, John N. Gaston (Edwin Mellen Press)  A. Eustace Haydon was one of the pioneers in what today we call Religious Studies. He was a well-versed and sophisticated researcher in this field. He was also a creative skeptic who nevertheless held to the importance of the religions of the world. Not only is his stance, that of an appreciative skeptic, relevant today, but the details of his conclusions are still useful. Haydon's writings continue today as one of the most important interpretations of human religions from a humanist perspective. These volumes will make available key parts of Haydon's writings never before published in book form, as well as republish his The Heritage of Eastern Asia. Those students and scholars concerned with the development of American philosophy and liberal religious thought will find the volumes of significant value. 

These volumes primarily contain unpublished writing of Albert Eustace Haydon. These include Haydon's doctoral dissertation, "The Conception of God in the Pragmatic Philosophy;" The Heritage of Eastern Asia (1932); addresses to the Chicago and New York Ethical Societies; talks delivered on radio station WJJD, Chicago; and an unpublished work, "Meditations on Man." These works are printed with the permission of Joan Haydon Caulton.

Copies of these publications were obtained from a variety of sources: The University of Chicago's Library provided a photocopy of Haydon's doctoral dissertation; The Heritage of Eastern Asia (only ten copies are known to exist) was provided by Library of Birmingham Southern College; photocopies of Haydon's addresses to the Ethical Societies and radio addresses were provided by the Chicago Ethical Society and the Ethical Society in New York; and Ethel Louise Shanks Haydon supplied a copy of Haydon's unpublished work, "Meditations on Man." When possible, each copy was scanned, processed by optical character recognition software, and visually inspected to ensure it accurately reflected the content of the original. Those documents that could not be scanned were entered manually and subjected to the same inspection process.

Each of the separate sections is preceded by a short essay providing the "Historical Context" for the following work. Readers desiring a more complete understanding of the life and times of Albert Eustace Haydon are referred to W. Creighton Peden's A Good Life in a World Made Good: Albert Eustace Haydon, 1880-1975. 

Albert Eustace Haydon was born in 1880 in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. Through public school and the Baptist Church, young Haydon became exposed to and infatuated with major religions of the world and their distinctive cultures — an infatuation which eventually led him to a career in comparative religion. Haydon graduated from McMaster University in 1903 and was examined and ordained a Baptist minister. An interesting feature of Haydon's examination answers was the stress on humans attaining perfection. He contended that due to human depravity, humans are unwilling and unable to attain to perfection of character. God had revealed the perfect standard for the ideal life for humans in Jesus Christ, which had opened the way for humans to attain to perfection of character. The role of the Holy Spirit is to foster the divine life in humans to perfection. Once the divine life has begun in a person, it is destined to be carried on to perfection. This drive for perfection was more than an abstract goal for Haydon as he sought "the higher life" in every facet of his living.

Haydon's first pastorate was the small Baptist Church in Dresden, Ontario, where he also served two small rural churches in addition to his primary charge. We catch a glimpse into Haydon's theological views as he shared them with Edith Jones. "My doctrine [seems] so perfect that I fear but I believe it is true. I have told you my thought before 'God became man that man might become god.' I preach that man rises to divinity, that he has divine life placed in him at his new birth and forthwith begins to grow into god. What else does this mean? 'Till Christ be formed in you' `Now you are sons of god' ... I preach that men may become god which is life, 'Eternal life to know Him,' Heaven: or men become godless, losing capacity for life of God which is imperfection, inharmony (sic), Hell." (1-19-1904)

On December 28, 1904, Haydon and Jones were married. They moved to Fort William where Haydon became the minister of the Baptist Church. One reason for the appeal of this new field was that Fort William (today part of Thunder Bay), at the turn of the twentieth century, was considered a major gateway to the Canadian West. An important activity for Haydon during the Fort William period was the completion of the B.D. (1906) and the M.A. (1907) from McMaster University. Events that occurred after Fort William reveal that Haydon was going through a period of intense theological and philosophical wrestling which would strongly impact their future lives. This wrestling was further enhanced by the Haydons spending the academic year 1910-1911 in the first year of his doctorial studies in Systematic Theology and at the University of Chicago where Haydon's advisor was Gerald Birney Smith.

With the first year of doctorial studies completed, the call to the Canadian West was finally realized for Haydon as he became minister of the First Baptist Church in Saskatchewan in 1911. As the Saskatchewan Daily Star reported, it was Haydon's understanding that this congregation would allow him theological freedom beyond the general Baptist traditions, as he proposed "to open the doors of the church to all Christians and not to insist upon immersion." In his sermons Haydon made it clear that his focus on ministry included the religious visions of persons not generally associated with the Baptist tradition or Christianity in general. With tension rising in the Baptist Church, Haydon resigned and became Secretary of the YMCA in Saskatoon.

The philosophical and theological shifts which had been evolving in Haydon's mind through his university and early days in the ministry were now solidified. He no longer held theological positions which were based on traditional perspectives. Although Haydon remained committed to a "higher" standard personally and professionally, he proposed a non-creedal cooperative approach, operating within the parameters of the scientific method, as a way fordealing with humans' increasing interdependent problems. We catch glimpses of the direction of his thinking in a talk on "Christianity and the World Crisis" of May 14, 1916: "This is the critical time in the history of our Christian religion... Never more shall we think the same as we have in the past. Religion henceforth will be measured by its power to work, to actually produce results. Forms and ceremonies will mean nothing – life must be vibrant and powerful. A new democracy is being is being born and soon will be ushered in. It will not be national but an international democracy... [which] will demand a religious interpretation of life that fits democracy. All the old interpretations have... been filled with ideas of aristocracy. The new interpretations must bring God in touch with the multitudes... [and] to speak of God as Father of the whole human family." The doctorial program, with its focus on comparative religion and systematic theology, and his dissertation topic, "Conceptions of God in the Pragmatic Philosophy," provided Haydon the opportunity to formulate his emerging position of religious humanism. The reader is invited to follow Haydon's analysis in this dissertation.

As Haydon concluded his doctoral work in December, 1918, George Burman Foster died. Based on the Faculty's recommendation, Haydon was appointed to replace Foster in the department of Comparative Religion in the University, with his office and classroom in the Divinity School's building. Haydon had reached his fortieth year in life and for the first time was settled in a career which could challenge and fulfill his expectations. In addition to his teaching, he had also become part-time minister of the First Unitarian Church of Madison, Wisconsin. From 1923 to 1957, Haydon continued his ties to the Canadian Y.M.C.A. by spending his summers as "resident philosopher" at the Taylor Statten Camps, Ahmek and Wapomeno, on Canoe Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada.

During these early years of teaching, Haydon became a very popular lecturer in the University as well as throughout the country. In addition to the responsibilities of teaching and serving on Divinity School graduate committees, Haydon was also confronted with the felt need to do research in Asia and the pressure of publishing. Although the opportunity never developed for an international research experience, Haydon did study Chinese and other languages in order to do primary study. During the 1920s, he wrote numerous book reviews and articles and began the manuscript of his first book, The Quest of the Ages (1929). Haydon stressed that religions today face the supreme test of adapting to a new age while at the same time trying to combat the inertia of their tradition by transforming these ancient ways of thinking and acting.

By the 1920s, religious humanism as a philosophical and religious position was gaining strength in Unitarian circles and especially in the Chicago region of the country. It was to Haydon's classes that many young theological students were drawn. There they were confronted with a functional view of religion as humanly created in a variety of forms in the quest for a satisfying life. This generation of humanist students became disciples of Haydon's position. Haydon also became the unofficial advisor of the humanist students, was a key contributor in writing Humanist Manifesto (1933), and a leader in founding the American Humanist Movement.

With a growing appreciation of Asian religions, Haydon and other scholars formed The New Orient Society for the purpose of stimulating scholarship in this field. Haydon's monograph, The Heritage of Eastern Asia (1932), was part of the second publication in a series started by the Society. In this work, Haydon examined the cultural heritage of Eastern Asia as these peoples participated in and adapted to the new age in which the problems of change was dominant, even though the unconquerable drive for the satisfactions of the complete life remained.

Until his retirement in 1945 as Professor Emeritus of Comparative Religion at the University of Chicago, Haydon continued his teaching, lecturing, and writing. His schedule of book reviews and articles for various professional journals increased during this period, as well as did his book publications. Of special concern to Haydon were the modern trends in major religions of the world as reflected in a conference held at the University of Chicago in 1933. The purpose of the conference, sponsored by the Haskell Foundation Institute, was to consider the nature of the adjustments occurring in the six great world religions due to the compelling facts of change. Haydon was editor of the conference volume, entitled Modern Trends in World-Religions (1934). Unfortunately, as Haydon notes, comparatively few people had realized and come to grip with the implications of the findings of the sciences.

In 1937 Haydon published Man s Search for the Good Life: An Inquiry into the Nature of Religions. He contended that the creative source of all religions was to be discovered in the social and physical struggle for the values of existence. Based on data from the various sciences, Haydon sought to weave the development of religion from early physical and social environments through life's changing process to our present more advanced stages of social controls. In this manner, Haydon argued that religions were woven about the desire patterns of a people.

Haydon, final book was Biography of the Gods (1941). In this work he unfolded the story of those gods who lingered long enough to leave an historical record. In arguing against the idea of merging all gods into some cosmic ultimate, Haydon contended that each god had a distinct personal character related to the special group for which it served. So long as the gods were useful to humans, they were retained in the culture, but if the social community was disrupted, the life of those gods was threatened. Gods either adjusted to the changing needs of the people or they died.

Upon retirement from the University of Chicago, Haydon accepted the role of Leader of the Ethical Society of Chicago. It was in this capacity that the following addresses were presented. Unfortunately, several of Haydon s addresses are incomplete (missing words) or not available. Essentially Haydon advocated the new religion of humanism and applied this perspective in an analysis of the changing environment facing humans in the modern world.

In 1955, at the age of 75 years, Haydon retired as leader of the Ethical Society of Chicago. The following year the American Humanist Association recognized Haydon for his unique contributions to the humanist movement and named him a Humanist Pioneer. Cyrus S. Eaton, a close friend since McMaster student days, was under attack by the U. S. House Committee on Un-American Activities for having traded with Russia during World War II. Haydon and others called for the Committee to be abolished, with the result that Haydon's patriotism was questioned and he felt that he was black listed from invitations to lecture.

Haydon s final years were spent in Pacific Palisades, California, lecturing until the age of ninety-one on the history of religions to university classes in Los Angeles and to groups at the home of Brownlee and Ethel Haydon, with whom he lived. With his mind remaining sharp, Haydon continued to write articles in Religious Humanism and prepared for publication "Meditations on Man," which are an expansion of the shorter meditations he had used in his addresses to the Ethical Society of Chicago. On April 1, 1975, Haydon died.


Headline 3

insert content here