December 16th, 2011

The Varieties Of Religious Experience (Intuition)

[I]f we look at man’s whole mental life as it exists, on the life of men that lies in them apart from their learning and science, and that they inwardly and privately allow, we have to confess that the part of it of which rationalism can give an account is relatively superficial. It is the part that has prestige forĀ it can challenge you for proofs, and chop logic, and put you down with words. But it will fail to convince or convert you all the same, if your intuitions are opposed to its conclusions.

Intuitions come from a deeper level of our nature than where rationalism resides. This is our subconscious life, impulses, faith, needs, divination which forms the reality our consciousness recognizes as truer than any logic chopping rationalistic talk, however clever, that contradicts it. The truth is that in the metaphysical and religious sphere, articulate reasons make sense only when our inarticulate feelings of reality coincide with our subconscious intuition.

William James, The Varieties Of Religious Experience (1902)(edited by PAT).

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December 11th, 2011

The Varieties of Religious Experience (Religious Reactions)

Religion, whatever it is, is a person’s total reaction upon life, so why not say that any total reaction upon life is a religion? Total reactions are different from causal reactions, and total attitudes are different from usual or professional attitudes. To get at them you must go behind the foreground of existence and reach down to that curious sense of the whole residual cosmos as an everlasting presence, intimate or alien, terrible or amusing, lovable or odious, which in some degree every one possesses.

This sense of the world’s presence, appealing as it does to our peculiar individual temperament, makes us either strenuous or careless, devout or blasphemous, gloomy or exultant, about life at large; and our reaction, involuntary and inarticulate and often half unconscious as it is, is the completest of all our answers to the question, “What is the character of this universe in which we dwell?

It expresses our individual sense of it in the most definite way. Why than not call these reactions our religion, no matter what specific character they may have? Non-religious as some of these reactions may be, in one sense of the word ‘religious,’ they yet belong to the general sphere of the religious life, and so should be classed as religious reactions.

William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902).

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December 4th, 2011

The Varieties of Religious Experience (Personal Religion)

At the onset we are struck by one great partition that divides the religious field. On one side of it lies institutional, on the other personal religion. Worship and sacrifice…theology and ceremony… are the essentials of religion in the institutional branch. [Here religion is] an external art, the art of winning the favor of the gods.

In the more personal branch of religion it is on the contrary the inner dispositions of man himself which form the center of interest… [Here] the individual transacts the business by himself alone and the ecclesiastical organization, with its priests and sacraments and other go-betweens, sinks to an altogether secondary place. The relation goes direct from heart to heart, from soul to soul, between man and maker.

Now in these lectures I propose to ignore the institutional branch entirely, to say nothing of the ecclesiastical organization, to consider as little as possible the systematic theology and the ideas about the gods themselves, and to confine myself as far as I can do to personal religion pure and simple. William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902).

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