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WILLIAM JAMES ON RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE: AN ELITIST ACCOUNT?

Author(s): William C. Spohn
Source: American Journal of Theology & Philosophy, Vol. 15, No. 1, The Relevance of William
James for Philosophy and Theology in the 1990s (January, 1994), pp. 27-41
Published by: University of Illinois Press
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2 account would the contrary.162 on Wed. In Varieties James not only coined the term "religious experience. Easter inOrdinary: Reflections on Human of Notre Dame." experience. with the pattern setters. with those who [James's] preoccupation live their religion at "firsthand" and not (like most of us) merely at "secondhand.3 worst retain the of James's features Many people today an to favor "exclusivist" too. (Notre Dame: 1988). He accuses professor for succumbing of James being systematically elitist in the treatment of religious phenomena: dismisses the institutional and intellectual dimensions of religion in James favor of private. conduct. Nicholas Experience and theKnowledge This content downloaded from 165. religion. religion.. S. James's William to the Cambridge philosopher of religion Nicholas Lash.WILLIAM JAMES ON RELIGIOUS ELITIST ACCOUNT? William EXPERIENCE: AN C. on the other hand. In his recent work Easter in Ordinary: Reflections on Human Experience and theKnowledge of God} Lash accuses James of a pervasive elitism. Lash..12. experience of God that in fact is ordinary life is permeated with a radical striving formeaning a quest forGod. approach They. 88 3. personal experience and intellectual activity. peak On 2. personal and disjunctive institutional existence and. Spohn.J. intensely emotional experiences undergone by certain a stems from The concentration model of human deficient "geniuses. / Santa Clara University James's The Varieties of Religious Experience remains a landmark in the psychological study of religion." depends upon quite arbitrary and unsustainable contrasts between. and ideas through the introspective and empirical approach which a decade he had inaugurated earlier in The Principles of Psychology. rather. 11 Dec 2013 12:46:31 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions of God . interpretation of it to that confines moments and self religious experience private.91. Ibid. His indictment is not an ad hominem dismissal of a wealthy. According this influence is largely pernicious. University Ibid. an adequate that not all emphasize is "necessarily religious in form or content". on the one hand. A to shape popular attitudes towards work continues century later." he also scrutinized human religious emotions. 289 1. white male Harvard to the biases of class and gender.

3. omissions Josiah Royce indictment. Instead. or pathological phenomena. James attempts to discover a discrete area for his pioneering scientific inquiry. This content downloaded from 165. behave according have such a relation to God. 1977) and his 1913masterpiece The ProblemofChristianity(Chicago: 7. The Sources of Religious Insight (New York: Octagon Books. 1. 5. and affirm their beliefs can institutions. 6.162 on Wed. Lash accuses James of three types of elitism. 11 Dec 2013 12:46:31 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 1976). 4.12. Harvard University. social. Lash rejects any "empirical" definition of religious experience because he believes that humans do not have sensory access to the divine."5 I will not defend James's description of religious experience as fully He slighted the linguistic.6 Lash's Lash interprets James as a philosopher of charge the defendant because as a of action."4 2. University William James. . of Chicago. does not accurately rightly criticized him. however. themost likely candidates or are states which transcend categorical mystical symbolic experience" representation and convey profound feelings of authenticity. Does James that James finds his empirical "religious facts" inmystical and paranormal in the Essays in he takes to be the "pure experiences" described phenomena for "pure Radical Empiricism. Each excludes as non or those who lack the specified religious experiences.. Aesthetic is taken to be a elitism: "when 'experience of God' or kind of 'religious particular particular interpretation experience. and ritual adequate. Psychological elitism: only persons of certain psychological types or those who undergo certain experiences "can live in relation to the creative and redemptive mystery of God. symbolic. for which his colleague dimensions of religion.AmericanJournalofTheology& Philosophy 28 the urgent authenticating emotions which offer no resources for addressing social problems of the late twentieth century. Ibid. sensibilities. 290 See Josiah Royce's Bross Lectures of 1911. Ibid. institutional. in Radical Empiricism (Cambridge. Psychological Elitism/Exclusivism to "mystical" states of "pure contrast religious experience are forms of sensation? that experience" primarily At the outset of the Varieties.91.' being deaf to religion is identified with being deaf to God. Institutional elitism: only persons who belong to certain ecclesiastical to their tenets. certain "religious facts" that cannot be Lash believes reduced to physiological.7 On this reading. consciousness rather than philosopher I. Essays 1968). allegiances.

Ibid. James indicates two reasons why we consider some states of mind superior to others. not by their roots. 219.Vol."11 He finds themost conclusive empirical evidence for the value of religion in for the ripe fruits of religion in a "the collective name saintliness. Varieties. the pragmatic criterion. Treatise on Religious Affections somewhat Ibid. we of prefer the evidence His famous formulation on "serviceability" over that of "inner happiness. however. inculcate the One must ask."9 When these two criteria do not agree. the first five of the twelve signs in religious affections for Edwards. 15. the structure of experiences Religious Affections examine This content downloaded from 165. January 1994 29 a "grammatical" approach he proposes in which communities define the and function of words such as "God" through rules that they meaning in their adherents. 1975) 6. in short."13 For pragmatism is no performance 8.. Press. 1. "of freeing us from personal caprice and waywardness. Three sorts of religious phenomena are investigated: mysticism correlates with "immediate luminousness. and moral helpfulness are the only available of the ensuing lectures bears out the primacy criteria.Pragmatism:A New Name for SomeOld Ways of Thinking(Cambridge: Harvard 9. Ibid. "It is either because we take an immediate delight in them. empiricism pragmatic empiricism Because Lash confuses James's empiricism with that of the British empirical tradition. 344."10 The organization of the third test. theory holds including religious beliefs. are not validated by certain qualities of consciousness but by their fruitfulness in action.8 The pragmatic that all hypotheses. 11.. character." Although philosophy and mysticism claim special access to religious truth. James cites Jonathan Edwards's and surest sign consistent moral practice is the culminating here." that is. he relegates it to a form of sensation-based meaning. No." religious opinions reinforces this priority: "Immediate luminousness.. whether he the that is denies James espoused. 11 Dec 2013 12:46:31 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ." and "saintliness" reasonableness. James. philosophical reasonableness.91. 24."12 Saints exhibit "our empiricist criterion: By their fruits ye shall know them.12. Ibid. William James. 12. 13. 23.. University 21. 10. While disingenuously of genuinely in fact." namely. to detect their "roots." speculative theology with "philosophical with "moral helpfulness. The text of the Varieties suggests that James's empiricism relies more on on sensory In the pragmatic validation apprehension. through action than no to he cautioned is that "there (1907) Pragmatism preface logical connexion" between pragmatism and radical empiricism. they fail to pass the "perfectly definite practical test. or else it is because we believe them to bring us good consequential fruits for life. This pragmatic empiricism structures the argument of Varieties.162 on Wed.

70-71. Yale University Press. for the validity of religious belief. 1959). Easter. One does not necessarily be finite for human action to be possible. the divine "object" will correlate with the it is apprehended. from the Spirit of God. The "Absolute" of the idealists likewise stifles action and reduces the individual person to a moment within the self-expression of the Absolute. PhilosophyofWilliam James(NotreDame: UniversityofNotre Dame Press.91. 16.AmericanJournalofTheology& Philosophy 30 it constitutes the argument rhetorical substitute for logical demonstration. 30-41. II. Social Elitism/Exclusivism Lash finds a second form of elitism portrayed without a past or a future."15 James rejects the orthodox notion of an infinite. sovereign deity because human such a reality is incompatible with the exercise of spontaneous action. 15. practical language: to "We and God have business with each other. James insisted in earlier writings and Varieties on relational. certain religious "pattern setters" whose satisfactions antecedents.14 In any account of religion. 1982). 17." that is. Interpreting him on his own terms as an empiricist of action leads to quite different conclusions. Edwards. See Lash. not quietistic bliss: "The universe.12. takes a turn genuinely for the worse better in proportion as each one of us fulfills or evades God's demands. See their origin be "supernatural Treatise on Religious Affections (New Haven.. and in opening ourselves mode this "business" may his influence our deepest destiny is fulfilled. Although in later writings his metaphors for God tended to be impersonal.16 In short. the basic relation to God is found in action that remedies problematic situations. have to agree with James that God must This content downloaded from 165. If the Jamesian of experience through which to action sensation we rather than relates God primarily through subject should expect an image of God that evokes an energetic response. 90-121. 406." Although to influences "the MORE" that of transcends our begin by surrendering realm. James.100.162 on Wed.17 Religious because action transformative socially in James: Religious is experience the originality of exaggerates pure experiences have no historical studied in Varieties do not lead to He the "studied imprecision of James's and spiritual. 44. of this theory of truth in The Pragmatic the deficiencies Ellen Kappy Suckiel has shown whether 14. See ibid. interpreting James as a philosopher of consciousness supports the charge that he contracted the region of religious experience to occasional sensations. 11 Dec 2013 12:46:31 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Varieties. at those parts of itwhich our or for the personal being constitutes. 52.

The effective public speaker identifies with the audience's problems and values while at the same time showing them how tomove forward. He knew how depression and aimlessness could cripple the human spirit. and institutional religion were prime examples "bigness. Experience without 31 lf January 1994 not what you worship Tradition? Even though James slighted the role of language and social practice in shaping all forms of experience. James addressed the cultural confusion of the end of the nineteenth century by drawing upon the suicidal despair of his twenties and his recurrent bouts of depression as an adult." the James thought of himself as a public philosopher who addressed great questions of the day through a steady stream of lectures and popular writings. The invisible molecular forces thatwork from individual to individual.12. He exhorted them to discover. may itself have been a timely social statement. James institutions which threatened to destroy personal autonomy. Peirce and Royce responded by showing that perception and conception are mediated by the social process of interpretation even more than by pragmatic experiment. argument is rarely confined to syllogism. experience paradigmatic generation: transformed James's private problems and solutions into issues of great moment and public priority was that the problem of the individual?the he made 18. declared. mendacious is the life displayed. Cited in George Press. University his Cotkin. Public Philosopher (Baltimore: This content downloaded from 165. that "itmatters supposes theological descriptions" that your worship brings you peace. 11 Dec 2013 12:46:31 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions John Hopkins . example. . G S. "I am against bigness and greatness in all their forms. James.91. as he had done. style. 49."19 Scientific positivism. and with the . 15. and other devices of persuasive speech. it is carried instead by the cumulative effect of image. According a for "What Cotkin. more the brutal."18 provided A. No. . Almost all his writings originated in presentations to the educated There is nothing elitist about his mode public rather than to philosophers. that resolute and confident action could to crystallize the self. imperialist of this stifling politics. a response to George Cotkin has recently shown that itwas burgeoning In 1899. the hollower. of presentation. in fact. his work addresses a definite social context and aims at its transformation. William 1990) 141.Vol. James's defense of individualism. most of his work can be appreciated better as as The rhetorical presentation than logical discourse..162 on Wed. Ibid. the more bigger the unit you deal with. appeal to experience. however. 19.

22 James's study of the originating geniuses of religion is less elitist than it first appears because it is permeated by religious traditions and symbols in a pluralistic As a public philosopher that he did not acknowledge. a of he from testimonies that could distill pattern general thought personal the "overbeliefs. redemption unencumbered by ecclesiastical formal and material proved difficult to untangle. the 20. 1979). A particular narrative of the shape of redemption that he Christianity had already determined to be nonsectarian."23 However.The Will to Believe and Other Essays inPopular Philosophy(Cambridge: Press. tolerance over James's confidence in democratic procedures emphasized to efforts alter conditions of That faith democratic oppression. Harvard 22."21 He about social avoided Utopian schemes speculation grand plans because "flatness and lack of zest" which repelled reminded him of the oppressive him at the Methodist "life in camp on Lake Chautauqua.162 on Wed. John McDermott (Chicago: This content downloaded from 165."20 intensely personal James's transformation was less fruitful for addressing social suffering and injustice. The Writings of William of Chicago Press. By banishing extremis" they snuffed the energetic response that keeps it vital. Confessions. William James. 21. University James. Martin to Augustine's Luther defined Christian conversion according reading of in Romans and Galatians effect are Paul's conversion experience. assumed He extrapolated a common pattern from his sources." it is also the arrangement "which even in the hour of triumph will to some degree do the vanquished justice to the ideals in which party's interests lay. 648. Varieties. This inclusive option is closer to John Rawls than John Stuart Mill. as well as intellectual. 400. William James.12. Ibid. They were taken primarily fromWestern sources and interpreted through conventional theological frameworks.91. James. While it is the one that awakens "the least sum of dissatisfactions.AmericanJournalofTheology& Philosophy 32 problem that James had confronted in the years immediately following the Civil War?became the common social and economic. on He culture he maintained confessional neutrality religious matters. nature of The property of fin-de-siecle Americans. 23. In order to become interpreted through the story of Augustine's an a Christian each person must go through analogous experience: when the to leads for self-sufficiency finally quest despair of achieving salvation. 11 Dec 2013 12:46:31 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions University . but they were mostly Protestant and almost exclusively Christian. particularly the paradigm of justification through faith articulated by Reformation Christianity. cooperative led to an insistence that all parties must be included in social arrangements. 9. ed. In the Varieties he relied heavily on the conversions studied by Edwin Diller Starbuck.. 1977). 155.

or release? James really was not very interested in them .162 on Wed." Apostle Introspective A. that "Mugwumps" account of conversion bias does not necessarily follow from the Augustinian which he favors."26 His He emphasizes Christian symbolism more obvious. 44. Dramatic conversion stories do tend to ignore the ordinary workings of God in the lives of believers. of Saint Paid ed. has theology.25 He that Protestant Luther's. is not just an argument with William the mainstream of American James but with religion which enshrines the Augustinian story of conversion and redemption. 11 Dec 2013 12:46:31 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Vol 15. lest "I should have grown really images of hope between M. Lash. Wayne account of his own "panic fear" where he relies on See the thinly veiled autobiographical Krister Stendahl Paul: 25. in Becoming William insane. 241-50.'s James (Ithaca: Cornell University 137." namely "of an unexpected life succeeding upon death. No. James. as interpreted through Evangelical Christianity." a transformation of the person by a new "life that supervenes upon tradition. ritual and dogma may well reflect the anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism that associated of the New England he with. 1972)."27 The central symbol of the Christian resurrection of Jesus Christ. development on an as in mode interpreted emphasis peak experiences Augustinian James's low estimate of necessarily denigrates other religious experiences. however. Lash questions exclusive character of such piety: "But what of those people (perhaps the vast majority of the human race) who have never known such experiences of conversion. 198. . though necessarily Christian. This content downloaded from 165.91. 28.24 33 1. Varieties. James. therefore. 24. A Pluralistic Universe. lurks behind the language of a theory that claims to transcend traditional symbols and doctrines. makes the underlying soul. 134. biblical Howard 26. has shown that this reading owes more toAugustine than to the Apostle see "The Conscience of Paul and the in The Writings the West. religious experiences that have a "specific nature. encounter. January 1994 and accepting the grace freely offered in in this James interpreted his experience of depression and deliverance even was a not it faith evoked that pattern. the death and despair. Universe. A Pluralistic Easter. particularly acknowledged "admirable congruity" with his account of the transformation of "the sick later work."28This charge of elitism. sinner is saved by surrendering Christ." James. the Augustinian piety that dominates American religion. 27. 1984).12. Meeks (New York: Norton. this and Henry James Sr. Varieties. 422-34. However the tradition of James stands within anonymously. including the often pedestrian processes of the spiritual an The question which is whether follows conversion. . Feinstein shows the close parallels from despair youthful deliverance Press.

The Jamesian "saint" possessed over into practice and heroic self-sacrifice. Although James attended to the general conditions of moral struggle more than to social problems. by insisting that between in the knowledge begins uncertainty of immediate experience and that all ideas must remain subject to continuous testing in social radicals practice. James insisted that themost appropriate moral stance is "the strenuous life. James turns out to be more anchored is tradition than was Since moral earnestness specific commonly realized. Will to Believe. pragmatism life's problematic conditions.12. the "saints" were to manifest in dedicated their commitments required a new source of energy that carried practice. 172. which reached fruition in the writings of John Dewey and other like-minded American 1890 and 1920."31 stance as This life" avoid meaning 30. 11 Dec 2013 12:46:31 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .30 How could an ethics founded on emotions in "the courage and expressed Genuine virtue must be practical engagement? it seeks to improve a world because that is "half-wild. James T. Uncertain 55." It echoes themoral earnestness of Augustinian doctrines of election and Christianity without relying on the Calvinist Does sanctification.91. strives to transform infrequent and ineffective. half "The strenuous mood" refers to the dominant virtue of a life well as the fundamental disposition that is ingredient in specific and intentions. Kloppenberg pragmatism private principle."The JournalofReligion59 (1979): 56-70." now goodness (goodness Ibid.. cited in Cotkin. This content downloaded from 165. faith in an unseen strenuous strenuous saved. It rests on the conviction that life has the "the 29. James's political impact: Through his radical empiricism and his pragmatism he helped to nurture the seeds of a new political sensibility. Nevertheless. John to institutional critique shows extension of pragmatism that Dewey's not in is writes of James T. "WilliamJames'sPhilosophy ofMysticism. the surest sign of personal election for the Puritans and their descendants. Conversion without Social Consequence? James articulate a religion of private sentiment which is socially his forays into questions of public policy were impotent? Admittedly. James. Kloppenberg. 31. See Don Browning. 55.29 It is inaccurate to charge that for James itmatters not what we worship so long as it Conversion does not produce bliss but brings us peace. fitness world for successful verifies moral faith "in the seen world's and religious life). Victory.162 on Wed. Once in a again.AmericanJournalofTheology& Philosophy 34 . enhanced powers of compassion and action. 173-74.

No. rather "the satisfactory character of Israel Scheffler. 73. easy-going mood and optimistic. 15. the redeemed "twice-born" soul who has tasted defeat and despair experiences a nuanced that acknowledges natural evil yet includes itwithin happiness the affirmation of "supernatural good.34 to a life of courage and stern joy James tirelessly exhorted his audiences in order to counteract the lassitude that plagued the culture. was not only a practical remedy for the trials of a specific generation. University out that this interpretation of the universe is not self Any number of critics have pointed to them. and publicly criticized designs Teddy Roosevelt. 35 1.12. however. 35. 125. 1986). The Arguments of the Philosophers Routledge Kegan Paul. in Cuba and the Philippines. threatening to make it appear littlemore than a philosophically sophisticated version of 32.Mead. itwas obvious to James that sacrifice and negation lie at the heart of moral experience.33 Because many moral decisions interest. James. Four Pragmatiste: lies in its predictive adequacy. "Satisfactory a true belief Introduction 109. healthy-minded religion purchase bliss at the price of oblivion: theymust deny the evil and suffering that are inevitable in life. Varieties. not refer to pleasant ones. and Dewey (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. This content downloaded from 165. James came to realize that the strenuous life could be tragically misunderstood. 1974). it is "the emotion that allies itself best with thewhole body and drift of all the truths in sight."35 It "fits the facts" of this world which is open to human intervention and "melioristic." incremental improvement. 36. In contrast. Ibid.Vol. 37. 34.. 144-60. 131. The Meaning and utilitarianism. Harvard Press."37 In his final years. See for it are not persuasive evident and that the reasons James provides & Graham (London: Bird.162 on Wed. Strenuous emotion. of Truth: A Sequel see James. at the imperialist He was appalled his of former student. results" need For his rejection of emotivism William James. James. 1975). The genial.36 In Varieties James prefers the more of redemptive complex model conversion to "once born" forms of religion because it ismore capable of sustaining the strenuous life. though energy bring pain."32 the willingness This ascet?cal side of Jamesian morality counterbalances the somewhat romantic estimate of human demands and instincts. January 1994 means right to claim from us the particular mood called seriousness?which to live with energy. William James. 11 Dec 2013 12:46:31 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . (Cambridge: 143. however.91. Will to Pragmatism to Believe." A Critical toPeirce. they must also commitment that does not shrink from the cost of embody a courageous transcend gratification and self acting. American He feared that expansionism militarism would pervert "his entire discourse of heroism. 33. Actions are not morally good simply because they produce satisfactory results.

Roosevelt?an IIL Aesthetic Elitism/Exclusivism The final difficulties that Lash has with James center on the role of "feeling" in religious experience. 64.42 affections" are based and not intellect sensation. will. 59. . 55. in Religion James. 206. comprises of that traced to conversion tradition.12. The suggestion and Morality in Varieties.39 Since the persistent to ineradicable human needs from which it practice of warfare points springs. a revelation of the divine beauty disclosure that creates a new capacity for experiencing God's simultaneously beauty. James stands within traditions that his critics often ignore. affections of the rationality. Essays ismade 170. Do religious "geniuses" possess a sixth sense that a range of enables them to perceive which is mystical phenomena 40 to inaccessible those who lack it? can leave the James's frequent polemics against conceptualism impression that all experience originates in sensation. Here again. The Pragmatic Philosophy This content downloaded from 165. affections are "sensible exercises of thewill 38. The metaphor in the "moral sense" school of of sensibility is common which dominated American philosophers colleges in the nineteenth century. a identifying psychological "organ" for religious perception. Lash. 39. civilization ought to devise a productive outlet for these instincts through a common experience of public service.162 on Wed. See Edwards. reasoning.AmericanJournalofTheology& Philosophy 36 an idea first in jingoism. of William James. . Public Philosopher. (Cambridge: University 292. Certainly this is not the case with no interest in James professed religious experience. See Suckiel. William 1982). Harvard Press."38 In 1910 he developed expressed Varieties. common in the Augustinian It is equally version of Christianity that mainstream American Protestantism. Religious Affections.41 Religious is the apprehension of a relation that is grasped not through experience sensation but through feeling. See James. 42. the Jonathan Edwards. premiere theologian genuine religious God's to the person. 81. 146. Yet even this foray into the public realm reveals his psychological approach: he was more interested in than in the practical political dimensions of his aggression analyzing proposal. Varieties. namely. 41.91. 11 Dec 2013 12:46:31 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Cotkin. He called it a "new sensibility" because its comprehension is "immediate" and on a train of not dependent the new "religious However. "themoral equivalent towar" thatwould embody the best of the strenuous life without endorsing militarism. Easter. upon physical "Affection" breaks down the supposed division between affectivity and . 40.

67. 46.'43 and subsequent American unites aesthetic. and thinkers thismode of apprehension religious experience. wants.Vol.ThePrinciplesofPsychology. 1225. One should not take literally. sensation[s] soul. Smith. The PrinciplesofPsychology. 47. 9.. 36. with the affective signs that one has arrived at a rational judgment. See JohnE. This content downloaded from 165.. 1978). Even inhismost narrowlyphysiologicalwork. 15."48 43. 41-42. In contrast to language and traditional psychology which concentrate on the "substantive parts" where to the "flights of consciousness attention James directs "perches. 44." between the resting points of definite ideas. moral. James recognizes that these affectional perceptions possess an a priori aspect that could not be derived from sensation alone.Purposeand Thought:TheMeaning ofPragmatism(New Haven: 45. Yale University Press. interests. therefore. 2. 1986). Not all feelings are sensations for James. James early things. and the early stages of beliefs do not depend on an organ of reception. Principles of Psychology. James. intuitions. intellectual. William Dean notes that this American empiricism should not be confused with that of Locke or Hume because it does not in the traditional five organic senses. Ibid.162 on Wed. 37 1.44 James locate "affectional perception" made an original contribution to this tradition by identifying the early stages of these apprehensions with the perception of relations. James. . 100. 11 Dec 2013 12:46:31 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . They are vague and but are not mystical illuminations or sensations that defy preconceptual. January 1994 . 58-59.47 philosophical These initial apprehensions of relations are "pure experiences" which do not differentiate subjective and objective realms.12. William American Dean. 236. 48. including their relation to the subject.113. Varieties.46 These "inarticulate feelings of reality" and "impulsive beliefs" should more accurately be called intuitions rather than sensations.91. and aesthetic feelings" which are "brain born. the statement that certain have "a sense of reality" about the unseen order. Religious Empiricism (Albany: State University of New York. are initially felt.1082. James. In describing the "stream of consciousness" intellectual expression."45 They indicate the very beginnings of reflection and the successful resolution of a mental process. it is an initial persons It should not be confused impression that remains to be tested empirically. They are crucial reason in establishing their lead because follows and arguments formulations. they are "moral. He calls these consciousness" "the transitive parts of the stream of thought" or "feelings of tendency. No. Ibid. For Edwards of the mind. in his states relations that the between work. No organ is required for such "feelings" since they are not sensations but internal reactions.

Because religious language cannot exhaustively capture relations. the value of the image is all in this halo or penumbra that surrounds and escorts it. Although relations experienced as feelings. "What we say about reality thus depends perspective and the relational parts of reality are dumb: Both the sensational they say absolutely 118." James. Generally..12. . Ibid. . championed be more than an instance of a general idea. We in Lash. . a unit of thematerial universe. dogmatic precision the vaguer portions of the stream of consciousness inevitably discounts This does not make James an anti and value are disclosed. where meaning are first intellectual. than emotions category Feelings are less and relations than are instincts. it is a somewhat vague Like all relations.50 When perceived as feelings. are a more general for James. .. subsequent reflection must specify them conceptually. or halo of specific items of thought. they also convey of the items in the stream: of importance and meaning the sense Every definite image in themind is steeped and dyed in the free water that flows around it. With it goes the sense of its relations. instead. Varieties. nothing about themselves. They require about estimate their full significance. This content downloaded from 165. Ibid. "feeling of tendency" found in the fringe This analysis of relations certainly contributed to James's persistent conviction that language impoverishes experience. . 246.AmericanJournalofTheology& Philosophy 38 They lead us on to new thoughts and emotions.52 This inner region is the source of our most basic values and life decisions is the ground of and possibility because here we perceive possibility. . 218. 11 Dec 2013 12:46:31 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 395. near and remote. What concepts gained in clarity was rarely worth what they lost in experiential richness. James. to assign a greater interpretive role to perception in in the is founded feeling" according to James because "Individuality obscure portions of inner life we have our closest contact with reality. Pragmatism.91. than it could bear. in is It vague initially apprehended experienced It is not one of the objects in the rather than a specific sensation or concept. it is who have to speak for them. 49. . The significance.51 James's extreme skepticism a of tradition derive from his lack of discourse may experience theological It also points to his tendency that could do justice to religious experience.162 on Wed. . 52. . discussed emotions 51. shaped by objective qualities on the into which we throw it. some framework of interpretation to relations are mute. 30. or a phase of the Absolute thinking itself. and James's sweeping courage feeling can be easily ensure to that the individual must He feeling misinterpreted. endorsements of faith.49 is the fundamental religious relation to "theMORE" as a feeling a manner. 50. stream that can be definitely conceived.

" in Spiritual According 1983).54 If it is plagued by an exclusivist with Edwards of divine election. and Theological Investigations Rahner and Edwards. Lash. the other position has problems explaining how that eludes experience can be transformed by divine self-communication view explicit notice. James locates himself in a different tradition.12.55 As in other Augustinian accounts of religious transformation. "That unshareable feeling which each one of us has of the pinch of his individual destiny as he is the center of the elusive privately feels it rolling out on fortune's wheel" sense of self. 81-103. energies. 194." Senses to Origen. No. and possibilities. Approach to Christian his article Discernment. transformation Varieties. is transformed by the new felt relation to a more comprehensive dimension of existence. one must in Augustinian Christianity. January 1994 Although Jameshad difficultyclarifyingthenotion of the self. 39 1. XVI Seabury. On the relation between "The Reasoning Heart: An American Spohn. on the of conversion and acknowledges continuity with Edwards experience in 202-4.162 on Wed. even admit that there is a certain exclusivism in its attenuated Jamesian form. 25. . In order to give some content to the notion of God he fell back on the personal needs 53.91. the active. The self self when it opens up to new emotions. "The (New York: see William C. 187-88. 55. a and value for distinctive and unique reality. holds with Karl Rahner the dominant Roman Catholic position that God's salvific will is universal and that religious transformation need not rise to explicit awareness. Chapter III. it is clearly not a given reality but an emergent entity shaped by crucial decisions that determine the pattern of the person's character. personal Element in the Church (New York: Herder See Karl Rahner. core of the James person is redirected to new sources of value. Theological Studies Vol 44. James 1959). Emotions. and needs convey a sense of salience specific subject. 15. The Dynamic and Herder. James. Not everyone is called and even fewer are chosen. 54. While he could agree with Jonathan Edwards not centers in he the would determine those affections. 393. voluntary was much less specific about the character of these new sources ofmeaning than those who believed that God had revealed himself in a canonical that true tradition and text. These decisions are shaped by feelings of possibility and threat that center on a interests. 1 (1983): This content downloaded from 165. religious experience affections by the qualities of God and Christ revealed in Scripture.Vol. Even though James does not qualify as an elitist for limiting religious experiences to those who have sensory experience of the divine. on the contrary. Varieties. No. and relations are felt before Conversion takes place at this "hot center" of the they are conceptualized. 11 Dec 2013 12:46:31 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 30-52.53 One gets the that the individual self is founded impression in feeling because it is composed of relations.

Lash. half-saved" life as the objective character of the universe enters into the strenuous The "complex. comports.12. I believe of "the complex sacrificial constitution" that this paradigm some defense against the charge that James's notion of God is provides an instrumental prop not is moral for functional. 106-7.162 on Wed. which not only makes for righteousness. ally in the because struggle against evil. 80-82. 48. Ibid. 58. though not absolute. 97-98.91. Nevertheless. James's turn to the subject attempted to ground belief inGod in human feeling and emotion. properly so called. perhaps because his estimate he retained a surprising of human needs had changed.59 Religion purely in the fuller picture. to due is also [the devil's] is.. the being there?that allegorical meaning world is all the richer for having a devil in it. Varieties. James. then. morality is an inner moment within commitment. one to each from derived the spontaneous priority gives personal beings" preferences and feelings. higher happiness corresponds to a universe where the good is always threatened but redemption is still the Archangel with his foot on Guido Reni's statue of Michael possible. at of consists of a which lies the heart religious experiences disposition" a lower unhappiness in It that holds check. Will to Believe."57 Later in his career. "the only sort of union of creature with creator which theism. and Both commitment. and which recognizes us. Easter. therefore. so long as we keep our foot upon its neck"58 Religious adds a new hope to moral earnestness experience itprovides the agent with a divine. We are practical beings.AmericanJournalofTheology& Philosophy 40 and aspirations that point toward the sort of God thatwould be appropriate for humans. James. The good ismenaced more by objective conditions of strife than by the cor incurvatus in se. there True. but means it. James's notion of God would become less personal and more vague. 'The richness of its Satan's neck displays this dialectical disposition. religion morality must be justified religious more but the forms of religion their results. 59. not share the Augustinian conviction that human corruption does James in human is "a certain blindness is pervasive and universal. 11 Dec 2013 12:46:31 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . The "half-wild. and practical kind. by adequate pragmatically correlative 56. 57. This content downloaded from 165."56 The sort of God capable of is of this emotional a "power our loyalty and courage would have to be conceived as awakening not ourselves. sacrificial to this central moral disposition. amount of confidence in basic human needs because they had enabled the test to must withstand the of evolution: be in working touch they species with actual conditions.

91." of the individual. James did not offer his his genteel social location. No. struggle into Nevertheless. religious morality and doctrines of it avoids the symbols any specific impoverished because it has was derived from the Augustinian What tradition. and account of the redemptive religious no more elitist than the traditions of mainstream American are experience piety which they defended and simultaneously democracy and Augustinian transform the moral transformed. James's notion of God. not only was it brilliant work that spoke common American most the new psychology. However. a political vision that transcended to "pure experience.162 on Wed. lf January 1994 41 a more joyful and energetic expression. 11 Dec 2013 12:46:31 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . defense critique of appeals structure of intellectual absolutism.12. it also endorsed by the its outmoded doctrinal baggage. or at least his public expression of it. while the of time jettisoning spirituality The verdict on the "elitism" charge remains mixed. or direct so remained vague that it is difficult to see how it could support is account of his that I believe moral action by others.Vol. This content downloaded from 165. 15. popularity of a to fascinated culture a Varieties. power religious in his nonsectarian remained vision which anonymously theological enormous some of the This may also explain overbeliefs.