The Varieties Of Religious Experience (The Divided Self)

The new will which I began to have was not yet strong enough to overcome the other will, strengthened by long indulgence. So these two wills, one old, one new, one carnal, the other spiritual, contended with each other and disturbed my soul. I understood by my own experience and what I had read, “flesh lusteth against spirit, and spirit against flesh.” It was me in both the wills, yet more myself in that which I approved in myself than that which I disapproved in myself. Yet it was through myself that habit had attained so fierce a mastery over me. Still bound to earth, I refused to fight for the spiritual side, as much afraid to be freed from all bonds, as I ought to have feared being trammeled by them.

Thus the thoughts by which I meditated upon a spiritual existence were like the efforts of one who would awake, but being overpowered with sleepiness is soon asleep again. Although I was sure it was better to surrender to a spiritual existence then to yield to my lusts, my lusts pleased me and held me bound.

There was naught in me to answer the spiritual call: “Awake from your lusts,” but my answer was: “Wait a little while.” But the little while grew into a long while. For I was afraid the spiritual existence would take me too soon, and heal me at once of my lusts, which I wished to satiate rather then extinguish.

With lashes of words did I scourge my own soul. Yet it refused, though it had no excuse to offer. I said to myself: “Come, let it be done, now” and as I said it I was on the point of the resolve. I all but did it, yet I did not do it. And I made another effort, and almost succeeded, yet I did not reach it, and did not grasp it, and the evil to which I was so wonted held me more then the better life I had not tried.

William James, The Varieties Of Religious Experience (1902)(Quoting St. Augustine with edit by PAT).

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2 Responses to “The Varieties Of Religious Experience (The Divided Self)”

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