The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James (Excerpt)

Inner happiness and serviceability do not always agree. What immediately feels most “good” is not always most “true,” when measured by the verdict of the rest of experience. The difference between Philip drunk and Philip sober is the classic instance in corroboration. If merely “feeling good” could decide, drunkenness would be the supremely valid human experience. But its revelations, however acutely satisfying at the moment, are inserted into an environment which refuses to bear them out for any length of time. The consequence of this discrepancy of the two criteria is the uncertainty which still prevails over so many of our spiritual judgments. There are moments of sentimental and mystical experience—we shall hereafter hear much of them—that carry an enormous sense of inner authority and illumination with them when they come. But they come seldom, and they do not come to everyone; and the rest of life makes either no connection with them, or tends to contradict them more than it confirms them. Some persons follow more the voice of the moment in these cases, some prefer to be guided by the average results. Hence the sad discordancy of so many of the spiritual judgments of human beings…

 

William James (1842-1910) has been dead 90 years. So he should know about spiritual matters. If you have his e-mail address, let me know.

Posted in Classics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • Contribute an Essay