Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, May 1, 2017

Installment 2- Peyton Burke

Peyton Burke
1 May 2017
The book I will be reporting on is The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James. This book is a study of human spirituality in all its forms. This book was published in 1902 while the study of the human mind was relatively new to the field of scientific study and William James was one of the first to seriously examine the psychology of religious faith. This book goes by different “lectures” instead of chapters. Lecture III is titled “The Reality of the Unseen.” It is about how we have a sense of reality other than that given by the special senses. For example, sense of presence or the feeling of unreality. In this section, William James mentions how religion is made up of a bunch of abstract objects that are all attempting to prove that they have equal power. In the writing James states, “God’s attributes as such, his holiness, his justice, his mercy, his absoluteness, his infinity, his omniscience, his tri-unity, the various mysteries of the redemptive process, the operation of the sacraments, etc., have proved fertile wells of inspiring meditation for Christian believers.” All the things that James lists in this part of the lecture are some of the parts of unreality that we feel a presence of. None of these are physical objects you can see or touch. One of the examples that William James provides after this was, “I have had much comfort lately in meditating on the passages which show the personality of the Holy Ghost, and his distinctness from the Father and the Son.” These are some of the “abstract objects” he mentions that are all trying to prove they are of equal power. Lecture IX is titled “Conversion.” This section is about the psychology of character-changes and how emotional excitements make new centers of personal energy and the schematic ways of representing this. In this lecture, William James provides a story from Mr. S. H. Hadley, who after his conversion became an active and useful rescuer of drunkards in New York. Mr. S. H. Hadley speaks of how he was a drunkard in the bars of New York and was at the lowest point of his life. He was constantly drinking, not eating, and could not even sleep without being “dead drunk.” Then one day he felt the presence of a spirit he learned was Jesus and it told him to pray and he decided he would never have a drink again. He had himself locked away in a prison cell to restrain himself from ever drinking. He speaks of how demons followed him into that cell, but that one good spirit of Jesus also came with him reminding him to pray. After being released from the prison, he attended a church service and listened to former drunkards give their stories of being saved by God and he decided he would either be saved or die right then. He asked Jesus for help and promised that if he was saved from alcohol that night, he would work for God for the rest of his life and he did. This is a perfect example of how emotional excitements make new centers of personal energy, and it even relates back to the presence of unreality in Lecture III.

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