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James, Var Religious Experience > James, Week 6, Lectures 14 & 15

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Still dealing intensely with recent death in family, continued apologies for my absence from the group, but here's the thread for the next week's reading, lectures 14 & 15.


message 2: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1753 comments James days we should no more expect there to be one best ideal man than we should expect one best ideal horse--you need a Clydesdale for hauling, a thoroughbred for racing, etc. Doesn't this confuse means and ends? He's treating a horse as a means, but a human being is an end in himself. I can image an ideal horse, in the perfection of its own nature, running in a wild herd over the plains. Should we really judge religious experience on how useful it makes men? And useful towards what ends?


message 3: by Lily (last edited Jun 30, 2016 12:15PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5062 comments Roger wrote: "James days we should no more expect there to be one best ideal man than we should expect one best ideal horse--you need a Clydesdale for hauling, a thoroughbred for racing, etc. Doesn't this confus..."

There are just many things weird about James's logic in many places throughout this text -- is one of my reactions. But that it has stood in high respect says to me the problem is probably mainly mine. And I still am finding it fascinating to consider the examples and the thinking about them that he has strung together in these lectures.

Maybe it is my lack of discipline, but I have not found it possible to use Adler's suggestions on how to read a text, including summarizing its key points, as I have been working through this thing. Is it that ideas and positions get laid down only to be referred to later, rather than thought building and accumulating into patterns that can be recognized? Or are there better ways of thinking about this as a cohesive whole? Or is it simply not a cohesive "whole", but a collection of observations across religious history (mostly Christian), loosely related to each other under the umbrella of "religious experiences"?


message 4: by David (new)

David | 2734 comments Roger wrote: "James days we should no more expect there to be one best ideal man than we should expect one best ideal horse--you need a Clydesdale for hauling, a thoroughbred for racing, etc. Doesn't this confus..."

I understood this as an analogy comparing the specializations contained within a diversity of horse to more efficiently address specific tasks to the specializations contained with a diversity of saintly expressions to more efficiently address specific faults in man.

When James says we should judge religious experience by its value alone he means to judge it by the utility of the experience to a man or a population, not how useful it makes men. Not to make it more confusing, but I can see how it would be reasonable to expect that a man who benefits from a religious experience should in turn be more useful to his fellow man, but this is highly debatable. This is fallout from James' Pragmatic philosophy; If it works (for me) it must be good (true).

If you are still looking for a an end, I suppose we would have to say being happy on earth as it is in heaven, and ultimately being happy in heaven, despite any reminders from Mark Twain that nobody really likes to sing that much, or play a harp.


message 5: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1753 comments Religion might be useful to a man in some circumstances and not useful in others--useful being conducive to comfort, survival, or something of the sort. That's a pretty poor justification for religion, isn't it? The best James can do is say is say that if everyone were religious (in an American Protestant circa 1900 way) we'd all get along very well. That seems really weak to me.


message 6: by Lily (last edited Jun 30, 2016 10:30PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5062 comments Roger wrote: "...The best James can do is say is say that if everyone were religious (in an American Protestant circa 1900 way) we'd all get along very well. That seems really weak to me. ..."

LOL! Well, if it were true, wouldn't it be pretty powerful? ;-(

Are you accusing James of a bit of grandiosity?

The 21st century challenges of globalization hadn't invaded academia in 1901 with the same mind sets as 100+ years later. Is it fair to say it was still a world in the midst of Western colonization with major parts of the East closed to foreigners? That Christianity dominated the Western political perspectives? Or was Judaism playing a bigger role than my knowledge of history allows me to see? After Muslims left Spain, what, besides oil, has brought Islam back into global play with the West?

I'm sorry. This discussion is about VAR -- individual religious experiences.


message 7: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1753 comments I get the feeling that James regards liberal Protestantism (liberal by his standards, not ours) as the apex of spirituality, and the world as constantly progressing. He had not seen what the 20th century was to bring: the World Wars, genocides, murderous totalitarianisms, religious terrorism. He seems to have little knowledge of varieties of religious experience outside of American Christianity. But we should give him credit for starting the investigation. Perhaps he is the first one to try to investigate religious experience objectively and dispassionately. He is a bit like Aristotle, doing the initial work of gathering together and systematizing the immediately available observations.


message 8: by Lily (last edited Jul 01, 2016 05:56AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5062 comments Roger wrote: "I get the feeling that James regards liberal Protestantism (liberal by his standards, not ours) as the apex of spirituality, and the world as constantly progressing. He had not seen what the 20th century was to bring: the World Wars, genocides, murderous totalitarianisms, religious terrorism. ..."

So true. I too had gotten that sense of 'inevitable progress' that seemed to permeate into the 20th century, even after the World Wars, until writers, philosophers, historians began to assess what humans hath wrought. (I still felt enveloped by some of that sense as a student even in the '60's -- I suspect many may still have such a world view of "progress" as inevitable. To me, it is the inevitability that has shifted, more so than the possibilities that are embedded in hope. News reports this morning that the ozone hole may be "healing.")


message 9: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 598 comments Lily wrote: "There are just many things weird about James's logic in many places throughout this text."

Is there ever! Convoluted, long-winded and at times downright painful to figure out where he's heading. I was reminded on numerous occasions of one article posted in the background section on Santayana and he thought James a bad thinker.


message 10: by Janice (JG) (last edited Jul 01, 2016 07:42PM) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Kerstin wrote: "Lily wrote: "There are just many things weird about James's logic in many places throughout this text."

Is there ever! Convoluted, long-winded and at times downright painful to figure out where he's heading. I was reminded on numerous occasions of one article posted in the background section on Santayana and he thought James a bad thinker..."


I don't think James was necessarily a bad thinker - isn't he one of the first to examine psychological mystical phenomenon? That would make him a pioneer at examining this correlation, without any models or previous data to rely upon.

But I do think he was a sloppy thinker, he allows for too many assumptions that may be era-specific & cultural. But then again, he couldn't predict the future (or hasn't so far), and where "progress" might lead psychology.

It's interesting that the one time he met Freud was in this same time period (1901-02), when he was giving these lectures. He and Freud did not hit it off so well. I also think it's interesting that James and Jung met and found themselves to be compatible. There is a suggestion that Jung's doubts about Freud began with James's comments and ideas.

https://books.google.com/books?id=bZs...

Addition edit: I haven't quite finished this section, so it's always possible I'm jumping the gun with my own assumptions.


message 11: by Lily (last edited Jul 01, 2016 09:14PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5062 comments Janice(JG) wrote: "I don't think James was necessarily a bad thinker .... But I do think he was a sloppy thinker..."

JG -- would you comment further on the distinctions you are making? (I tend to equate the two. Perhaps you define yourself by the examples you provide?)


message 12: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 598 comments Towards the beginning of the chapter James writes:

“So soon as the fruits began to seem quite worthless; so soon as they conflicted with indispensable human ideals, or thwarted too extensively other values; so soon as they appeared childish, contemptible, or immoral when reflected on, the deity grew discredited, and was erelong neglected and forgotten. It was in this way that the Greek and Roman gods ceased to be believed in by educated pagans; it is thus that we ourselves judge of the Hindu, Buddhist, and Mohammedan theologies; Protestants have so dealt with the Catholic notions of deity, and liberal Protestants with older Protestant notions; it is thus that Chinamen judge of us, and that all of us now living will be judged by our descendants. When we cease to admire or approve what the definition of a deity implies, we end by deeming that deity incredible.”

I am not so sure this holds fully up to scrutiny. He implies in broad brush strokes that all gods are the same, it doesn’t matter how they are defined. That just doesn't work. Pagan gods usually are part of the universe, a kind of higher being, but they are not outside it. The God of the Jews and later of Christians is eternal, outside of time and space, and totally other. Same goes for the other religions he mentions.
His parsing of protestant vs. catholic understanding of God is silly. As in much of this chapter, he lets his bias (and often ignorance) bleed through, and I don't take these kinds of statements seriously.


message 13: by Lily (last edited Jul 02, 2016 10:12AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5062 comments Kerstin wrote: "...The God of the Jews and later of Christians is eternal, outside of time and space, and totally other...."

Interesting words, Kerstin. I am reminded once again of the question, what is the character of (your) God?

I am not sure how to ascribe meaning to "outside of time and space."


message 14: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5062 comments @2Roger wrote: "James days we should no more expect there to be one best ideal man than we should expect one best ideal horse--you need a Clydesdale for hauling, a thoroughbred for racing, etc. Doesn't this confus..."

My stream of consciousness took me to the epistles of Paul. He so often writes of the multitudes of gifts brought by different people, using analogies with the different parts of the human body and their necessity to the whole.

"Now there are varieties of gifts, ..."
http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=1Cor... for more on such analogies of differences versus oneness.

I know, that is a different direction than your question, Roger.


message 15: by Nemo (last edited Jul 02, 2016 11:22AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Kerstin wrote: "Towards the beginning of the chapter James writes:

“So soon as the fruits began to seem quite worthless; so soon as they conflicted with indispensable human ideals, or thwarted too extensively ot..."


I think James is implying a sort of Darwinian evolution of religion -- the "fittest" religion survives while the others become extinct because they are ill-adapted to the moral senses of evolving human beings.

As others have pointed out already, James seems to believe in inevitable progress, though Darwinian evolution only asserts change not progress. I'm not sure when and how this shift in outlook, i.e., equating change with progress, took place.


message 16: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1753 comments The usual tendency among Christians is not to look for progression or improvement over time, but to approach more closely the actual teachings of Jesus and of His Apostles. We can understand them better, and apply them to new circumstances, but we can't improve on them. I don't know where James's "indispensable human ideals" come from--maybe they bubble up from who-knows-what in the unconscious.


message 17: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 598 comments Lily wrote: "Kerstin wrote: "...The God of the Jews and later of Christians is eternal, outside of time and space, and totally other...."

Interesting words, Kerstin. I am reminded once again of the question, w..."


God in the Judeo-Christian understanding created the universe, therefore he is not a contingent part of it. He is totally other. That separates him from the pagan gods. Time and space governs the universe, but not God, as he is outside it. This makes him eternal.
Bishop Robert Barron talks about this all the time, and he wrote about it just a few days ago in a commentary on St. Irenaeus:

"But the God of the Bible, who is utterly perfect in himself, has no need of anything at all. Even in his great act of making the universe, he doesn’t require any pre-existing material with which to work; rather (and Irenaeus was the first major Christian theologian to see this), he creates the universe ex nihilo (from nothing). And precisely because he doesn’t need the world, he makes the world in a sheerly generous act of love. Love, as I never tire of repeating, is not primarily a feeling or a sentiment, but instead an act of the will. It is to will the good of the other as other. Well, the God who has no self-interest at all, can only love.”
http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/b...


message 18: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 598 comments Nemo wrote: "I think James is implying a sort of Darwinian evolution of religion -- the "fittest" religion survives while the others become extinct because they are ill-adapted to the moral senses of evolving human beings.

As others have pointed out already, James seems to believe in inevitable progress, though Darwinian evolution only asserts change not progress."


I should keep this in mind :) This was the heyday of believing that everything could be figured out, given systematic scientific pursuit, and soon no mysteries would remain in this universe.

I'm not sure when and how this shift in outlook, i.e., equating change with progress, took place.

That's a great question! Why would it be necessary to equate change with progress? To what purpose?


message 19: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Lily wrote: "Janice(JG) wrote: "I don't think James was necessarily a bad thinker .... But I do think he was a sloppy thinker..."

JG -- would you comment further on the distinctions you are making? (I tend to ..."


It took me a while to come up with an explanation -- I'd never had to articulate the difference before. I hope this makes sense.

For me a bad thinker would be someone like Uncle Scrooge (or any person obsessed with greed, or any personal obsession), whose thinking is necessarily limited and mutated by their fixation... every decision would be based on its effect on the object of obsession. This kind of wrong/bad thinking would be "bad" in the sense that it could lead to faulty decision-making that might be harmful or damaging. I'm not saying that bad thinking only arises in cases of obsession or greed, any kind of narrow, exclusionary, and/or rigid thinking that prevents the person from making sound judgments because of prejudices and bias would be examples of bad thinking.

I don't really think James has a bias toward Christianity (I believe he detaches himself from Christianity in his personal belief system, but I can't remember where I read that), but I think that he assumes his audience is probably Christian. The fact that he includes Hinduism and Buddhism and Judaism in the discussion seems very radical for the times, considering the probable audience bias. I do think James is sloppy in that he seems to me to have lots of cultural assumptions in these lectures, and I don't know if this is because he (and his audience) has an "immature" world view (ie a less developed experience of the scientific method for example), or because he is just taking short cuts because of time limitations or audience limitations.


message 20: by Nemo (last edited Jul 02, 2016 01:09PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Roger wrote: " I don't know where James's "indispensable human ideals" come from--maybe they bubble up from who-knows-what in the unconscious. "

They came from the same source whence the "unalienable Rights" of men also came.


message 21: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Kerstin wrote: "I am not so sure this holds fully up to scrutiny. He implies in broad brush strokes that all gods are the same, it doesn’t matter how they are defined..."

I didn't really get that he thinks all gods are defined the same, but that all and various religion or belief systems' definitions of their gods or beliefs evolve and change, and the old systems are eventually left behind or discarded. And I think he is also saying that this happens because human thinking evolves and changes.

An excellent book that discusses the evolution of religions and belief systems is Karen Armstrong's The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions.


message 22: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1753 comments Nemo wrote: "Roger wrote: " I don't know where James's "indispensable human ideals" come from--maybe they bubble up from who-knows-what in the unconscious. "

They came from the same source whence the "unaliena..."


So from the Creator, then? Can that be what James means? Different people have different ideals--how do we know which are from the Creator and this indispensable? Because they are the ones approved by circa-1900 liberal Protestantism, perhaps? Maybe circa-2000 will approve different ideals. Perhaps this has happened. We can have no idea what will be approved in 2100.


message 23: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Roger wrote: "Nemo wrote: "Roger wrote: " I don't know where James's "indispensable human ideals" come from--maybe they bubble up from who-knows-what in the unconscious. "

They came from the same source whence the "unaliena..."

Because they are the ones approved by circa-1900 liberal Protestantism, perhaps? Maybe circa-2000 will approve different ideals. Perhaps this has happened. We can have no idea what will be approved in 2100...


"Freedom" as a human ideal is probably neither a subconscious concept nor a temporary one, regardless of religion or belief system.


message 24: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5062 comments Janice(JG) wrote: ""Freedom" as a human ideal is probably neither a subconscious concept nor a temporary one, regardless of religion or belief system. ..."

Is "Freedom" not possibly a human concept, subject to human definition and redefinition? Despite Jefferson's glorious words...


message 25: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5062 comments Janice(JG) wrote: "It took me a while to come up with an explanation -- I'd never had to articulate the difference before. I hope this makes sense...."

Thank you for your comments, JG. I think I understand the distinctions you are making. Again, thx!


message 26: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Lily wrote: "Janice(JG) wrote: ""Freedom" as a human ideal is probably neither a subconscious concept nor a temporary one, regardless of religion or belief system. ..."

Is "Freedom" not possibly a human concept, subject to human definition and redefinition? Despite Jefferson's glorious words...
..."


I suspect anyone who is or has had their freedom taken away would have a pretty basic and fundamental idea of what it means to be free.


message 27: by David (new)

David | 2734 comments Kerstin wrote: "The God of the Jews and later of Christians is eternal, outside of time. . ."

Since movement and thought require change over time, any god that lives outside of time would be frozen in both movement and thought and unable to accomplish or even plan anything. If that does not make you think, then you can laugh at the thought provoking wordplay in Mr. Diety and the Really Hard Time


message 28: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie Janice, your comment about the meaning of freedom says it all. We tend to take our freedom for granted. As for freedom to think, some people lack the education, nutrition or time to even begin to know how to think.


message 29: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments David wrote: "Kerstin wrote: "The God of the Jews and later of Christians is eternal, outside of time. . ."

Since movement and thought require change over time,"


I suppose that's only true for finite beings bound by time and space. Man needs time to move and think, because he can't think of many things or be at many places at once.

(For those who are interested, the attributes of God are discussed in Lecture 18.)


message 30: by Lily (last edited Jul 04, 2016 08:17AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5062 comments Janice(JG) wrote: "I suspect anyone who is or has had their freedom taken away would have a pretty basic and fundamental idea of what it means to be free. ..."

Would you say the same of someone who believes they have encountered injustice -- or should I say, lack of Justice? Are not Justice and Freedom "big concepts" with many manifestations?

To be ridiculous in example, has a child sent to his/her room lost freedom? A black youth sent to prison? The "answers" here are obvious. But what about freedoms of speech imposed by the nature of one's work? Or by courtesy? Or driving on the right side of the road in the US, the left in the UK? Or....


message 31: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Lily wrote: "Janice(JG) wrote: "I suspect anyone who is or has had their freedom taken away would have a pretty basic and fundamental idea of what it means to be free. ..."

Would you say the same of someone who believes they have encountered injustice -- or should I say, lack of Justice? Are not Justice and Freedom "big concepts" with many manifestations?

To be ridiculous in example, has a child sent to his/her room lost freedom? A black youth sent to prison? The "answers" here are obvious. But what about freedoms of speech imposed by the nature of one's work? Or by courtesy? Or driving on the right side of the road in the US, the left in the UK? Or..."


I don't know if I'm clear about your questions here. You seem to be asking about cultural civilities (or the lack of them). There is a two-edged sword to freedom, because it often allows for license. Societies create laws to inhibit bad behavior that causes physical harm to others, but by and large I think people are left to their own devices for handling instances that might offend people's ideas of right and wrong.

I imagine you are asking about inappropriate behavior/speech in the workplace that can get you fired? Hate speech might be considered illegal under the "fighting words" exception, and speech or behavior that is considered sexual harassment is illegal and limits the ability of a person to discriminate against another person in a public facility. But I think other speech that gets you fired can be challenged in court. Having been an employer, I know how hard it is to legally fire someone.

Limits to freedom of speech (or action?) imposed by courtesy is cultural I'd guess. In the Miller test for the definition of obscenity, the measurement is assigned to whether the contemporary community as a whole would judge it as prurient. That pretty much allows for anything, since most communities are very diverse in their definition of offensive speech or actions.

I think I do understand your last question about which side of the road to drive on. We as humans are free to drive on any side of the road we want to, but in doing so, we may directly threaten the physical safety of others. So, there are traffic laws (and thank heavens for them). I have to admit, however, that the first time I willfully drove on the wrong side of the road (with no traffic - or cop - in sight) was a thrilling moment for me... I was exercising my right to cross the line : )

The helmet laws in many states in the U.S. are highly controversial, and probably unconstitutional, since they restrict an individual's right to ride a motorcycle without head gear and therefore protects them from their own choices (Paternalism), which is a denial of the individual freedom of choice. While it has reduced deaths from motorcycle accidents, I've never thought the real motive was to protect individuals from themselves, I think it is to protect insurance companies and probably eventually other individuals from having to pay higher insurance rates. At any rate, many of the helmet laws have been repealed, and there will probably never be a national helmet law.

Hell, we can't even restrict gun sales for known criminals and suspected terrorists because we are so paranoid about stepping on the individual rights of citizens to choose to own firearms. This is an example of the two-edged sword of freedom. Ultimately, I believe (I'm hoping) that people will begin to understand that freedom for all human beings depends on everyone living by what is basically known as the golden rule.


message 32: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie I have always believed that freedom needs to be balanced by responsibility-to self, to others, to society, to this planet we call home.


message 33: by Nemo (last edited Jul 05, 2016 12:13AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I have always believed that freedom needs to be balanced by responsibility-to self, to others, to society, to this planet we call home."

It is worth noting that James uses the word "freedom" 28 times in the book, but "responsibility" only 4 times, three of those four are in the context of abandoning responsibility to attain happiness.


message 34: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 598 comments Nemo wrote: "It is worth noting that James uses the word "freedom" 28 times in the book, but "responsibility" only 4 times, three of those four are in the context of abandoning responsibility to attain happiness."

I have this nagging impression James is a relativist, this certainly underscores it.


message 35: by Lily (last edited Jul 05, 2016 09:46AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5062 comments Kerstin wrote: "I have this nagging impression James is a relativist, this certainly underscores it. ..."

I don't understand your intended meaning, Kerstin. My M-W online gives this definition of a "relativist": a believer in, or advocate of relativity, relativism, or the theory of relativity. The theories were published in the early 1900's, so James perhaps could have known them as ideas percolating. But I am not sure how the use of freedom and responsibility in this text correlates.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_...


message 36: by David (new)

David | 2734 comments Lily wrote: "Kerstin wrote: "I have this nagging impression James is a relativist, this certainly underscores it. ..."
I don't understand your intended meaning, Kerstin. My M-W online gives this definition of ..."


Maybe she means:
"Moral relativism may be any of several philosophical positions concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures. Descriptive moral relativism holds only that some people do in fact disagree about what is moral; meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong; and normative moral relativism holds that because nobody is right or wrong, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when we disagree about the morality of it."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_r...


message 37: by Kerstin (last edited Jul 05, 2016 10:55AM) (new)

Kerstin | 598 comments Lily wrote: "Kerstin wrote: "I have this nagging impression James is a relativist, this certainly underscores it. ..."

I don't understand your intended meaning, Kerstin. My M-W online gives this definition of ..."


Oh! I didn't think of Einstein at all :)

I meant it in the sense of relativism, where morals and truth are not taken as absolutes, but are infinitely variable.

When I take the statement that James "uses the word "freedom" 28 times in the book, but "responsibility" only 4 times, three of those four are in the context of abandoning responsibility to attain happiness." and add to that that we are talking in the context of religion which cannot be divorced from truth and moral conduct, then I have to wonder how much more important individualism is for him over our duties and responsibilities we have vis-a-vis the people we share our lives and come in contact with. Is James still talking about the freedom of the individual -- as seen in context with the community -- or is he justifying selfishness?


message 38: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1753 comments James does seem to be divorcing religious experience from truth. He's evaluating it by whether or not it is conducive to happiness


message 39: by Lily (last edited Jul 05, 2016 12:44PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5062 comments Kerstin wrote: "...Is James still talking about the freedom of the individual -- as seen in context with the community -- or is he justifying selfishness?..."

As harsh as I can be about James, I find it hard to consider him as someone justifying selfishness -- individualism, yes, but that need not be the same as selfishness.

This was a period of U.S. history that see the rise in individual versus the group or community -- with all the ramifications that has had on the character of the U.S. We did see in the biography of James (early link) that James seemed to focus more on the individual than the communal group. That certainly seems to me to fit with what we find in this exploration of religious experience, too.

PS -- thanks for the clarification on "relativist", Kersten. David seems to have read you correctly. Sorry for my thick headedness this morning. I am avoiding categorizing James along that parameter, at least for the time being. He does seem to be trying to be even handed, yet there seems to be so much weight thrown in particular directions. Also, I'm not sure even if he were even handed, that would imply moral relativism -- moral relativism about what, after all.


message 40: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments The end of Lecture 15 is provocative and timely, as it discusses poverty and the fearful accumulation of wealth to avoid poverty, and poverty as the moral equivalent to war
"something heroic that will speak to men as universally as war does, and yet will be as compatible with their spiritual selves as war has proved itself to be incompatible... Poverty indeed IS the strenuous life... and when one sees the way in which wealth-getting enters as an ideal into the very bone and marrow of our generation, one wonders whether a revival of the belief that poverty is a worthy religious vocation may not be 'the transformation of military courage,' and the spiritual reform which our time stands most in need of."
I've never considered the idea of voluntary poverty as an alternative to the stresses of war, but it's a fascinating idea.

My daughter recently finished her PhD dissertation on what is currently referred to as Simple Living, her research was about how (and why) Simple Living is manifesting in religious communities in the U.S. today.

A few years ago I witnessed a roomful of young adults (18+) being asked what they thought the definition of "the American Dream" was. The answers were a consensus - all of them said they thought the American Dream meant that everyone should be able to grow up to be a millionaire. This was shocking to me, since I'd always understood the American Dream to mean that everyone was allowed the same opportunities, and that any child could grow up to become President of the United States (I think Lincoln was always the example in my mind).

I wonder what James (and Nietzche) would have thought of Ghandi. I think they just missed the phenomenon of Ghandi's practical mysticism and religious pragmatism.

James ends the lecture by pointing out that clearly there was no really scientific way to measure religious experience and its results based on the examples and data of his previous lectures... and so it was time to move on to mystical experience, which he meant all this to lead up to. Finally, I feel like we are getting to the meat of the matter.

I'm curious as to James's conclusions about mysticism as compared to those of Evelyn Underhill.


message 41: by Borum (new)

Borum | 535 comments Janice(JG) wrote: "The end of Lecture 15 is provocative and timely, as it discusses poverty and the fearful accumulation of wealth to avoid poverty, and poverty as the moral equivalent to war "something heroic that ..."

I'm not exactly sure what Simple Living implies, but I'm increasingly attracted to the concept of minimal living these days and I wonder what the human civilization (and religion) would have been like if we were driven by a will and courage to let go instead of to gain more and succeed..?


message 42: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Borum wrote: "Janice(JG) wrote: "The end of Lecture 15 is provocative and timely, as it discusses poverty and the fearful accumulation of wealth to avoid poverty, and poverty as the moral equivalent to war "some...

I'm not exactly sure what Simple Living implies, but I'm increasingly attracted to the concept of minimal living these days and I wonder what the human civilization (and religion) would have been like if we were driven by a will and courage to let go instead of to gain more and succeed..? "


Simple Living is a categorical name being used by different groups of people who are beginning (or continuing) to live what you have just described as minimal living. There are whole philosophies and practices becoming associated with the idea. Our consumerist culture that has become an economic class structure here in the U.S. seems to be popping people out the other end who have just had it with our cultural glut and are looking for alternate ways to live a more eco-friendly budget-wise lifestyle.

Good explanation of simple living from Wiki:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simple_...


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