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James, Var Religious Experience > James, Week 4, Lectures 9 & 10

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments We now come to two lectures on conversion. At least initially, James seems to focus solely on conversion to Christianity.

This strikes me as a bit strange for two reasons. Up to now he seems to have been careful to be more focused on all religious experiences, not just Christianity, though it has been clear that he has been speaking to a largely (if not completely) Christian audience. But second, he was, according to one source I read, asked to lecture on natural religion. I assume that Christianity was probably well known to his student audience, and that he was specifically asked to lecture on natural religion to go beyond Christianity, which up to now he seems to have been doing.

But his early examples in this section are decidedly focused on conversion to Christianity, although at least in the opening passage from Stephen Bradley it seems to be conversion from a shallower to a deeper Christianity.

I think a key question during these readings is whether we can legitimately draw more general concepts of conversion out of these lectures which could apply equally to conversion to Islam, to paganism, to Judaism, etc., or whether James is really speaking of a set of conversion experiences which are so centered on Christian belief that it is hard, if not impossible, to draw generalities of religious conversion out of them.


message 2: by David (new)

David | 2681 comments Everyman wrote: "We now come to two lectures on conversion. At least initially, James seems to focus solely on conversion to Christianity."

There is probably something to be said for the predominate use of Christian documents because they would have been the most accessible by him at the time. However, given his stated intentions to cast an overly wide net, there are times when one has to wonder.

I am disappointed and critical of his lone example of the "counter-conversion" of Jouffroy from orthodox to infidelity. His use of the word, infidelity, while technically correct, has such a negative effect in this context. Also, the conversion itself resulted only in sadness seemingly without any benefit. This of course is the opposite of happiness, something James previously claims is one of human life's chief concerns.

Does this type of rhetoric betray a personal bias vulnerable to sophistry and lying by omission? Does it foreshadow some later conclusion yet to be drawn?


message 3: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1723 comments In these lectures James seems to be primarily occupied with the question of whether "born again" Christians are just as Christian as the other kind, who have the same faith but can point to no moment of conversion in their lives. I don't know if other religions have the same kind of emotional conversions. Buddhists have enlightenment, but I've never heard that that has the same overwhelming emotional and physiological effects.


message 4: by David (new)

David | 2681 comments Here is a different conversion story:
Bacon and God's Wrath


message 5: by David (new)

David | 2681 comments Roger wrote: "the question of whether "born again" Christians are just as Christian as the other kind,..."

No true Scotsman?


message 6: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments It was brought home to me while reading these two lectures that the subconscious/subliminal was a newly discovered factor of consciousness, and I thought about how thrilling it must have been to realize there were other doors to the mind. It must have been like discovering a new planet in the solar system - invisible for so long, and then new tools, and there it is...


message 7: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Roger wrote: "In these lectures James seems to be primarily occupied with the question of whether "born again" Christians are just as Christian as the other kind, who have the same faith but can point to no moment of conversion in their lives. I don't know if other religions have the same kind of emotional conversions. Buddhists have enlightenment, but I've never heard that that has the same overwhelming emotional and physiological effects...."

James focuses on the pits of despair that seem to precede the letting go that allows for the conversion experience. The Sufis talk about a similar sense of despair that must occur as part of the process of union with the "beloved." Metaphors and symbols are the poetic language of the Sufis, and one of the symbols that they refer to is a mirror. They say that once you have had a dream where you see yourself in a mirror, and you loathe what you see, you have begun the process of conversion (conversion in this case does not necessarily mean converting to a religion or to Islam (there are many who claim Sufis existed before Islam), but a change of heart).

The Sufi whirling dervishes experience ecstasy similar to those that James describes. The Buddhist satori is supposedly a similar experience of illumination with the light of truth, as well as feelings of profound peace and compassion.


message 8: by David (new)

David | 2681 comments The "Rite of Passage" Wikipedia page has a good bit of information on the general phenomena of conversion I think James is alluding to.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rite_of...
Oddly enough "born again" is not listed under the religious section. It probably should be, but born again still is not held with much respect from the more mainstream Christian religions. I remember the term being joked about in the Protestant surroundings of my younger days.

I think the personal despair of the twice-born is viewed as a sort of boot camp for which they naturally think less of the once-borns that have not gone through it in a similar way a seasoned professional views a talented rookie.

I remember in the 90's there were various men's movements based from books like Iron John: A Book About Men that were the basis for organizations that attempted to fulfill a perceived need for some sort of right of passage by providing an actual symbolic process. Some of the men who participated in these events, although quite capable on their own, thought less of their own once-born selves for having never gone through their own personal trial or rite of passage. The participants in these types of events reported feeling everything from mild catharsis to feelings similar to the converts included in VRE. Some reported distinctly spiritual experiences and a sense of earned belonging. Despite that fact, I suppose these types of events would be closer to the mind-cure end of the spectrum of religious experience.


message 9: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 856 comments David wrote: "The "Rite of Passage" Wikipedia page has a good bit of information on the general phenomena of conversion I think James is alluding to.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rite_of...
Oddly enough "b..."


I read that book recently. It was interesting but controversial (as were the Promise Keepers). The interest seems to have faded away. It was called the mythopoetic mens movement.


message 10: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1723 comments James's argument seems to be: "The born-again get new ideas that seem to come out of nowhere. We know that the unconscious produces new ideas that seem to come out of nowhere. Therefore the new ideas of the born-again must come out of the unconscious." This is hardly logically conclusive. At best it's no more than a plausible hypothesis. I don't know how one would test it. It seems very bold of James to pronounce so confidently on a subjective experience that (I feel sure) he has not had. It seems like he claims to see through something that he has not seen.


message 11: by David (last edited Jun 17, 2016 10:03AM) (new)

David | 2681 comments Roger wrote: "It seems very bold of James to pronounce so confidently on a subjective experience that (I feel sure) he has not had. It seems like he claims to see through something that he has not seen."

The preface of my edition makes a fairly strong case that James did indeed have his own experience. It suggests to me that he probably considered himself among the twice-born because of it.
. . .William James also plunged into a near-suicidal depression in 1869. It took him several years to recover, and he did this by reading the French Catholic philosopher, Renouvier, on the will; the British poet Coleridge on the limits of the scientific mind-set, and finally, James himself declared, "by believing to believe in free-will." In other words, he willed to believe that the mind is a self-active agent, capable of altering material circumstances by the exercise of conscious intention. . .

. . .James's recovery could be seen as a compromise between the extreme religious position of his father and the extreme scientific position of Wright. William James used Wright to escape his father's smothering metaphysics, but it took a near-suicidal episode for James to get free of Wright's hypnotic ideas about reductionistic science. The payoff for William came at a painfully high personal price in the form of recurring bouts of anxiety and depression. The prize, however, was that for the rest of his career as a philosopher and psychologist, he felt he could effectively draw on both epistemological domains and, in fact, bridge them with his own final tripartite metaphysics of pragmatism, pluralism, and radical empiricism.


James, William. The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature . Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.



message 12: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1723 comments David wrote: "Roger wrote: "It seems very bold of James to pronounce so confidently on a subjective experience that (I feel sure) he has not had. It seems like he claims to see through something that he has not ..."

That's a very interesting and illuminating story. I wonder why James does not discuss his own experience in the lectures. Or maybe he will. It seems it was not a Christian conversion, but something else. Perhaps James would say it was essentially the same, though he would have no way of proving that.


message 13: by Rex (new)

Rex | 206 comments James seems to suggest at one point in lecture 9 that Christianity has particularly cultivated the more interesting and dramatic forms of conversion. Elsewhere he notes "the admirable congruity of Protestant theology with the structure of the mind as shown in such experiences." Also, when one but glances at the rich history of revivalism in Anglo-American Protestantism, one wonders if James felt he had ample material without looking to other traditions. Of course, he does raise his sights a little, to Catholic converts once or twice.

As I don't think anyone else has commented yet, we do get (briefly) a description of how James is using the word "soul."

When in lecture 10 James is describing how new theories of the unconscious illuminate religious experience, I am reminded of what I've read about the shift from the premodern "porous self" to the modern "buffered self" (the terms from Charles Taylor, I believe). In premodern cultures, thoughts and emotions and mental states are often seen as coming from somewhere outside the self, from spiritual forces. Since the late Middle Ages and Descartes, our society has slowly "contained" these qualities of experience by attributing their origin to a clearly demarcated and autonomous individual mind, and eventually to mere chemical mechanisms in the brain. James continues on this same trajectory with his "scientific" assumption that we may be able to attribute even the most violent changes in consciousness to "subconscious incubation." That reminds me, I need to get around to reading Taylor's short book on James.


message 14: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5030 comments Rex wrote: "That reminds me, I need to get around to reading Taylor's short book on James. ..."

Me, too, but I am still finding it too fascinating to listen and read James that second, third, maybe even fourth time, and feel as if maybe I am beginning to understand, at least that section, if not the umbrella, of his thought.

Thanks to all for all the fascinating comments the past week. I had limited Internet access, so had not even been following on a daily basis. I formatted and printed out a week's worth of comments last night and got through reading them today. Now my mind is in a muddle as to what, if anything, of value I might be able to add to this conversation. For now, I am going over to a background link and recommend a movie we saw while away.


message 15: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 568 comments My copy of Taylor's book just arrived yesterday. Can't wait to dig into it :)


message 16: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 568 comments Of the two types of conversion, volitional and involuntary, James really digs into the latter one. It seems to me that here he has something to "bite into" professionally, whereas the more subtle volitional type is harder to quantify due to its steady application of reason.

I certainly can attest to the volitional type in my conversion to the Catholic Church. It wasn't a "lightning bolt" or a conscious decision to go down this path. It was a situation I found myself in. I was flattened by the Logos, so to speak. The Truth, aggregated over many years, converged in one "knowing" moment. And in hindsight I knew I had left Protestantism behind a long, long time ago. At the time of this transition I was not aware of it at all, today it is clear that the beginning of the end was when I started reading Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI.
I doubt James would use me as an example...too boring :)

James later quantifies the conversions he listed, and makes Ratisbonne's the least profound. I had the exact opposite reaction. The overt emotionalism of other conversion experiences he listed, as real as they were to the people themselves, are a little foreign to my more analytical mind.

Taking this apart a little further, I wonder whether conversion experiences, aside from the personality factor, are largely predicated by the philosophical backdrop. Despite the many commonalities, there are real theological and philosophical differences between Protestantism and Catholicism, and depending in which environment one finds themselves in or was formed in will determine what kind of conversion experience one has.

Another aspect James doesn't go into - at least he hasn't so far, is, that conversion is defined differently between Protestantism and Catholicism. Within Protestantism it is usually one profound experience, and nothing more is required or sought. Within Catholicism one doesn't concentrate on one profound experience.The focus is on life-long continuous conversion. Meaning, once you discover the "Interior Castle," to borrow Teresa of Avila's image, you won't grow in the spiritual life if you remain on the outside, there are mansions within to be discovered. In other words, the initial conversion is only the beginning on the path to holiness.


message 17: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Kerstin wrote: "I certainly can attest to the volitional type in my conversion to the Catholic Church. It wasn't a "lightning bolt" or a conscious decision to go down this path. It was a situation I found myself in. I was flattened by the Logos, so to speak. The Truth, aggregated over many years, converged in one "knowing" moment. And in hindsight I knew I had left Protestantism behind a long, long time ago. At the time of this transition I was not aware of it at all, today it is clear that the beginning of the end was when I started reading Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. ..."

Amazing... your experience is very similar to mine, including reading Ratzinger. I, too, had left Protestantism behind (since childhood actually), but I had also spent the intervening time studying Zen Buddhism and the Sufis. Then, on a visit to England, I was touring Winchester Cathedral when suddenly there was this dawning realization, this "knowing" as you call it, that I was a follower of Christ. The realization mortified me, and I was determined never to mention it to anyone -- people who espoused Christianity had always seemed insincere and hypocritical, and I certainly didn't want to be associated with any group like that. However, after reading John Hardon's Catholic Catechism (which forced me to ask myself some hard questions), and Ratzinger/Benedict, I had to come out of the (religious) closet... which is when I converted to Catholicism.

I like your reading references, Ratzinger/Benedict wrote thoughtful and profound explanations of Catholic belief, as did Teresa of Avila with her Interior Castle. I can't help but think we will hear more about Teresa of Avila as James develops his theme of types of religious experiences.


message 18: by Genni (new)

Genni | 837 comments I am just managing to finish the readings and follow the comments. I so appreciate the depth of knowledge displayed.

"if you should expose to a converting influence a subject in whom three factors unite: first, pronounced emotional sensibility; second, tendency to automatisms; and third, suggestibility of the passive type; you might then safely predict the result: there would be a sudden conversion, a transformation of the striking kind..."

This passage is interesting to me. That there would be a checklist of things to look for in a person and then could possibly test them and see if they have a sudden conversion after exposure to a "converting influence".

As a newbie to psychological readings, I don't really understand "automatisms" and exactly how he is using this and what the significance is of their presence in conversions. I mean everyone has involuntary or subconscious impulses. So I guess everyone could at least get one check on the list of things to look for?


message 19: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments I'm curious (as usual), Janice and Kerstin, why and how you converted from Protestantism to Catholicism, if you don't mind sharing a little more details.


message 20: by Nemo (last edited Jun 27, 2016 08:22PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Kerstin wrote: ".Within Protestantism it is usually one profound experience, and nothing more is required or sought. Within Catholicism one doesn't concentrate on one profound experience.The focus is on life-long continuous conversion."

If I understand Protestantism correctly, conversion is the beginning of a new life, a one-time experience, like the sowing of a seed, and corresponds to the notion of justification by faith, whereas the life-long spiritual pursuit corresponds to the notion of sanctification, a gradual process like the growth of a seed. This is the reason Luther believes firmly that good works always follow faith.

(I find many similarities between Catholic and Protestant theology insofar as I'm able to comprehend them).


message 21: by Lily (last edited Jun 27, 2016 11:39AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5030 comments In many ways, what James discusses as religious conversion seems to me more simply a conversion from one mind set to another -- a process that could be quite secular and devoid of the divine, although some sort of external force or calling or sense may be given credit for either initiation or sustaining the change now labeled "conversion."

I like this from Rex @13: In premodern cultures, thoughts and emotions and mental states are often seen as coming from somewhere outside the self, from spiritual forces. Since the late Middle Ages and Descartes, our society has slowly "contained" these qualities of experience by attributing their origin to a clearly demarcated and autonomous individual mind, and eventually to mere chemical mechanisms in the brain.


message 22: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Lily wrote: "In many ways, what James discusses as religious conversion seems to me more simply a conversion from one mind set to another -- a process that could be quite secular and devoid of the divine, altho..."

Yes, that was my thought also, but for some reason I posted it in the next section. I'm looking forward to his lecture on Mysticism.


message 23: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Nemo wrote: "I'm curious (as usual), Janice and Kerstin, why and how you converted from Protestantism to Catholicism, if you don't mind sharing a little more details."

I think I talked about the "why" in msg #17, unless you are looking for something else?

As to the "how," when I decided I wanted to look into joining the Catholic Church, first I attended a few masses and felt very lost and intimidated, but also intrigued that there was such an ambience of sacredness.

I called someone at the church office, and was told that I would need to take RCIA classes (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) before deciding that I would join. At first I felt a little put off by the idea of being denied access to communion, and wondered what kind of indoctrination the Catholic Church was going to put me through. All my Protestant prejudices rose up, and I pictured cult-like initiations.

In fact, the idea of the RCIA classes is to acquaint hopeful converts with the concepts of church doctrine and practices, answer questions, and discuss religious and spiritual beliefs... all of this so that I could decide for myself whether or not this was truly a change I wanted to make.

These classes gave me an opportunity to vent my doubts and confusions about the Catholic way of things. I think I must have lucked upon a very progressive parish and church, because many of the main issues that traditionally plague the church (abortion, LGBT, divorce, etc.) were handled in a very liberal, loving, and supportive way (tho' the issue of women in the church has never been satisfactorily addressed to my mind). By the end of the classes, I was ready to commit.

This was almost 30 years ago. For my course of study after joining the Church (the continuous conversion), I followed my nose to seek out people like Thomas Merton and Meister Eckhart, and for the last few years, Richard Rohr. I also incorporated all my Zen, Taoist and Sufi learning into my growing understanding of spiritual life. I figured that since the definition of catholic is "universal," then I was on the right path.


message 24: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Janice(JG) wrote: "Nemo wrote: "I'm curious (as usual), Janice and Kerstin, why and how you converted from Protestantism to Catholicism, if you don't mind sharing a little more details."

I think I talked about the "..."


Thank you for sharing, Janice. Now I know why you converted to Catholicism, but why you left Protestantism is still not quite clear.


message 25: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Nemo wrote: "Thank you for sharing, Janice. Now I know why you converted to Catholicism, but why you left Protestantism is still not quite clear."...

I left Protestantism because it never felt as if it offered me anything, and because I was raised in a Protestant family with Protestant roots, I witnessed all the confusion, prejudice, fears and indifference that seemed to accompany a Protestant belief system. I was certain there had to be a more encompassing, more inclusive, and more positive way of living a spiritual life. Thus, I left.

Let me be clear, here, however. At this stage of my life, I can see how all organized, institutional, and/or doctrinal religions and belief systems fall short of fulfilling the yearnings and promise of spiritual life. Protestantism is not alone in its failings, and I'm sure it can be equally as satisfying to people in its supportiveness.


message 26: by Nemo (last edited Jun 27, 2016 04:14PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Janice(JG) wrote: "At this stage of my life, I can see how all organized, institutional, and/or doctrinal religions and belief systems fall short of fulfilling the yearnings and promise of spiritual life. "

If I'm not mistaken, the majority of this group share your view. I may be a minority of one who believes that institution and doctrine can potentially fulfill the spiritual needs of individuals to a far greater extent than individuals can achieve on their own.


message 27: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Lily wrote: "In many ways, what James discusses as religious conversion seems to me more simply a conversion from one mind set to another -- a process that could be quite secular and devoid of the divine, altho..."

I agree. For James, "conversions" are the effects of subconscious activities more than anything else. Although he doesn't exclude the possibility of the divine acting through the subconscious, the difference is practically negligible.


message 28: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 568 comments Nemo wrote: "I'm curious (as usual), Janice and Kerstin, why and how you converted from Protestantism to Catholicism, if you don't mind sharing a little more details."

Oh gosh, where to start?

All my life I’ve been surrounded by Catholics and later I married a Catholic. I’ve been familiar with many practices and devotions and the Mass for a long time.

During the years we raised our family we lived comfortably side-by-side, so to speak. My husband hadn’t really attended Mass all these years going to services with me and the boys now and then. Then out of the blue he expressed the desire to attend Mass again. I had no issue with this, as a matter of fact I was thrilled, and we began to alternate. Up to then I didn’t really think about converting.

What I did struggle with was making full sense of the Christian faith. There were so many gaps in my knowledge. Growing up it always seemed my very outspoken atheist father had the “better” answers, and these were corroborated by the culture at large. My husband, even though as a child he attended Mass every Sunday, didn’t really know much either. He was part of the “lost generation” of young Catholics who fell into the “catechetical black hole” in the tumultuous years after Vatican II. Thank God much has improved since then!

For a long time the answers I was seeking were hovering just beyond my grasp, but often didn’t know where to start or what questions to ask. I was thinking there must be an inner cohesiveness and logic otherwise the Christian faith wouldn’t make much sense for some of the most intelligent people who ever lived, not only to be Christian, but men of the cloth. I was thinking of Thomas Aquinas, Nikolaus Copernicus, Augustine, Georg Mendel, Georges Lemaitre, and so many more. And of course over the centuries there have been an impressive list of influential women too, such as Hildegard von Bingen, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, Clare of Assisi, Angela Merici, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Katherine Drexler, Mother Teresa, …

It was during this time I started reading more and more Catholic writings. There really weren’t many Lutheran sources online to quench my curiosity, and I didn’t know which books to read. I had no desire exploring further afield into Protestantism, I am too rooted in history and Christianity began with Christ not the Reformation. So I explored the next best thing, Catholic sites. I began reading Joseph Ratzinger and others prompted by articles and commentaries I read online. I was struck how often the Early Church Father’s were referred to, some of them who knew the Apostles themselves. This in my mind carried far more weight and credibility than anything Luther, Calvin or even Bart Ehrman put to paper many centuries later. The homilies I heard at Mass were in stark contrast to the sermons at the Lutheran Church in message and delivery. The completeness of the Catholic understanding of the Christian faith began to sink in. Finally! I loved attending Mass and felt at home. I was also increasingly bothered by the fact that I was separated from the Apostolic Succession. If the Catholic Church is indeed Christ’s Church, then why am I still on the outside looking in? I left the Lutheran congregation fairly quickly and I began the process of coming into full communion with the Catholic Church, which took place four months later. I didn’t have to go through RCIA due to my familiarity with Catholicism, all I had to do was attend a series of ‘Inquiry’ classes.


message 29: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Kerstin wrote: "All my life I’ve been surrounded by Catholics and later I married a Catholic. I’ve been familiar with many practices and devotions and the Mass for a long time. "

How did you become a Protestant in the first place? :)


message 30: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Nemo wrote: "Janice(JG) wrote: "At this stage of my life, I can see how all organized, institutional, and/or doctrinal religions and belief systems fall short of fulfilling the yearnings and promise of spiritua...

If I'm not mistaken, the majority of this group share your view. I may be a minority of one who believes that institution and doctrine can potentially fulfill the spiritual needs of individuals to a far greater extent than individuals can achieve on their own..."


But yes, I agree and I think you are correct. I could never be anywhere in this quest if I had tried to do it on my own. I believe growing spiritually is a process, and a very important part of that process is the guidance of a Master (in my case, Jesus the Christ) and the alignment with a religious community to help in understanding and guiding.

I would not have grown had I not had the influence of the Protestant pastor who lived across the street when I was 3 years old and answered my endless relentless questioning, nor if I had not had Zen and the Sufis and the Tao to help me understand the concepts of not-doing, being, detaching, and the ego... I see my Catholicism as close as the marrow of my bones, it is exactly who I am, including my understanding that, as when if Buddhists meet Buddha on the road they must kill him, the Church itself is not the end of my quest.


message 31: by Kerstin (last edited Jun 27, 2016 07:13PM) (new)

Kerstin | 568 comments Nemo wrote: "How did you become a Protestant in the first place? :) "

Baptism :) My mother comes from a long line of Lutherans. I grew up in rural southern Germany, which is predominantly Catholic.


message 32: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Janice(JG) wrote: "the Church itself is not the end of my quest. ."

Do you envision the end of your spiritual quest as something that involves many other people, or is it strictly an individual thing?


message 33: by Lily (last edited Jun 27, 2016 08:32PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5030 comments David wrote: "Here is a different conversion story:
Bacon and God's Wrath"


"Bacon, atheism, the Internet, Julia Child, and Christopher Hitchens converge in the intellectual awakening of a Canadian nonagenarian."

Clever story. Do JC & CH have anything to do with it other than as background influencing Internet characters?

James avoids dealing with theology and sacred texts. As a Protestant, one of my own journeys (e.g., Phyllis A. Tickle, Emergence Christianity) has been the struggle with "sola scriptura" as (probably?) the major source of earthly religious authority. As we know, the Bible, in its various Jewish and Christian forms, can be considered largely a collection of stories about the relationships of the Divine and the human. Other religions that provide sacred texts usually include Wisdom books or sayings that are comparable across faiths. None of this seems to fall within the scope of what James is lecturing upon, although I continue to become more and more fascinated about the role of story in human experience/history.

E.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_...


message 34: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Kerstin wrote: "Nemo wrote: "How did you become a Protestant in the first place? :) "

Baptism :) My mother comes from a long line of Lutherans. I grew up in rural southern Germany, which is predominantly Catholic."


How did the two sides finally manage to live in peace with one another?


message 35: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Nemo wrote: "Janice(JG) wrote: "the Church itself is not the end of my quest. ."

Do you envision the end of your spiritual quest as something that involves many other people, or is it strictly an individual thing?..."


That's a very interesting question. I haven't actually envisioned any end to this quest, I have no idea what that might look like. On the one hand, I can imagine it as a spiritual awakening for planet earth and all its creatures. On the other hand, all I can ever really know is what I experience, which is always an individual subjective thing... at least it is in this lifetime, on this planet.


message 36: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 568 comments Nemo wrote: "How did the two sides finally manage to live in peace with one another?"

I think after the 30-Years War everyone was exhausted!

In Germany to this day you pretty much have a patchwork of areas which are either predominantly Lutheran or Catholic. It used to be if for some political reason you got another overlord who wasn't part of your confession entire populations moved out and others moved in. I found it interesting when the historian Christopher Bellitto pointed out there was a general fatigue within the population by the mid 17th century and many returned to the "Old Faith" -- independently from the Church's efforts in the counter-reformation to reclaim lost areas.


message 37: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 568 comments Lily wrote: "Other religions that provide sacred texts usually include Wisdom books or sayings that are comparable across faiths."

I find these arch-types fascinating. Our common humanity across the globe is undeniable.

There was a time when I devoured the books by Joseph Campbell inspired by the PBS interviews with Bill Moyers.


message 38: by David (new)

David | 2681 comments Kerstin wrote: "Lily wrote: "Other religions that provide sacred texts usually include Wisdom books or sayings that are comparable across faiths."

Sacred texts come with too much "Dog"ma, but wisdom books are cool.
How to gain, how to keep, how to recover happiness, is in fact for most men [and dogs] at all times the secret motive of all they do, and of all they are willing to endure.

James, William. The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (p. 66). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

If I had to guess, I would say Snoopy is a first-born.


message 39: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Ha! Actually, Snoopy is very Zen.


message 40: by David (new)

David | 2681 comments Janice(JG) wrote: "Ha! Actually, Snoopy is very Zen."

Lets not forget: The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet


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