Submitting to Freedom: The Religious Vision of William James

By Bennett Ramsey | Go to book overview

5

Returning to Experience

It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists. There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus

It might seem odd to leave James in midstream of his Varieties, five lectures still to be delivered, and no conclusions clearly drawn. Mysticism, a summary review of the characteristics of the religious life, a word about the relationship between the religious investigations and the worlds of philosophical and theological construction: all of these remained in the balance after the evaluation of saint‐ liness. 1 The twice-born individual, to be sure, had been vindicated; if religion could be of good to human life, it would be by orienting people back within the contingency of things rather than by offering them a means of escape or—and this amounted to the same thing—affirming their assertion of control. But there were other points that needed to be addressed before James could call his work complete, questions about the nature of the experience at the heart of the religious life and, more generally, about the implications of the world of religious experience for the world of life experience.

The lectures on the value of saintliness thus formed a natural stopping place in James's thought; what James said afterward had a different focus and orientation. Gone, for the most part, beyond this point were the evaluative descriptions and typological surveys; the analysis rested less and less on personal and biographical testimonies and explanations. In their place were "spiritual judgments," a series of statements about the varieties of overbeliefs that

-103-

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Submitting to Freedom: The Religious Vision of William James
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Submitting to Freedom - The Religious Vision of William James *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • Submitting to Freedom *
  • Introduction 3
  • I - The Early Years: 1865-1890 *
  • 1 - A Presence of Absence 17
  • 2 - Reweaving the Self 33
  • II - The Later Years: 1890-1910 *
  • 3 - The Romance of Self-Assertion 59
  • 4 - The Self Resubmitted 77
  • 5 - Returning to Experience 103
  • Conclusion 129
  • Notes 145
  • Index 173
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