The Varieties of Religious Experience (Saintliness)

“The collective name for the ripe fruits of religion in a character is Saintliness. The saintly character is the character for which spiritual emotions are the habitual centre of personal energy; and there is a certain composite photograph of universal saintliness, the same in all religions, of which the features can be easily traced:”

1) The saintly person has a feeling of a life beyond selfish interest. This is combined with a conviction of the existence of an “Ideal Power.”

2) The saintly person has a sense of a friendly continuity with the “Ideal Power” and her own life.

3) The saintly person becomes elated and free as the outlines of confining selfhood are absent.

4) In the saintly person there is a “shifting of the emotional centre towards loving and harmonious affections,” towards “yes” rather than “no” without regard to what others think.

According to William James these saintly characteristics have the practical consequence of:

a) Asceticism- The lack of concern for material goods and comfort. A giving up of fighting for worldly  pleasure.

b) Strength of Soul– A lack of fear and anxiety, replaced by a “blissful equanimity.”  This is because of a  trusting of the natural order of things.

c) Purity– As the “sensitiveness to spiritual discords is enhanced, [there is a] cleansing of existence from brutal and sensual elements… .”

d) Charity– There is “a tenderness for fellow creatures. … The saint loves his enemies, and treats loathsome beggars as brothers.”

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

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