Saturday, May 12, 2018


Following his objective and exhaustive study of religious experience as a topic for observation, William James concluded The Varieties of Religious Experience with a chapter exploring religion from the subjective point of view. In his final chapter he developed his reasoning concerning his own experience of the practice of religion. He identified himself as one who sensed that religion as a personal experience is the means by which answers to the perennial and ultimate questions can best be explored.

From his earliest writings Blake expressed the idea that the Natural approach to experience of the Divine Presence was closed. The mind which relied on sense data and reasoned processing could not reach what was accessed through a different path. Blake found that his awareness of the numinous which had been present to him since childhood was enhanced after the death of his younger brother Robert. He continued to feel his brother's presence, hear his brother's voice and act from his brother's instruction. He realized that man cut himself off from his full human potential if he did not develop the dimension of himself which was connected to areas which were unconnected to matter and the reasoning mind. He choose 'Inspiration & Vision' as his 'Element' and 'Eternal Dwelling place.'
British Museum
Copy A, Plate 6
Los and his Spectre

Quotes from The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James - from Chapter XX, Conclusions
Page 489: "If religion be a function by which either God's cause or Man's cause is to be really advanced, then he who lives the life of it, however narrowly, is a better servant than he who merely knows about it, however much.

Page 490: "The sciences of nature know nothing of spiritual presences..."
Page 491: "Today, quite as much as in any previous age, the religious individual tells you that the divine meets him on the basis of his personal concerns.
Science, on the other hand, has ended by utterly repudiating the personal point of view."
Page 496: " long as we deal with the cosmic and the general, we deal only with symbols of reality, but as soon as we deal with private and personal phenomena as such, we deal with realities in the completest sense of the term."
Page 499: "The axis of reality runs solely through the egoistic places - they are strung upon it like so many beads."
Page 500: "I think, therefore, that however particular questions with our individual destinies may be answered, it is only by acknowledging them as genuine questions, and living in the sphere of thought which they open up, that we become profound...By being religious we establish ourselves in possession of ultimate reality at the only points at reality is given us to guard. Our responsible concern is with our private destiny, after all."

Page 515: "Confining ourselves to what is common and generic, we have in the fact that the conscious person is continuous with a wider self through which saving experiences come, a positive content of religious experience which, it seems to me, is literally and objectively true as far as it goes." 

Page 519: "The whole drift of my education goes to persuade me that the world of our present consciousness is only one out of many worlds of consciousness that exist, and that those other worlds must contain experiences that have meaning for our life also; and that in the main their experiences and those of this world keep discrete, yet the two become continuous at certain points, and higher energies filter in.
...the total expression of human experience, as I view it objectively, invincibly urges me beyond the narrow 'scientific, bounds.'"

No Natural Religion, (E 2)
"II  Reason or the ratio of all we have already known. is not
the same that it shall be when we know more."  
No Natural Religion, (E 3)
"VII The desire of Man being Infinite the possession is Infinite
& himself Infinite"

Milton, Plate 26 [28], (E 124)
"So they are born on Earth, & every Class is determinate
But not by Natural but by Spiritual power alone, Because         
The Natural power continually seeks & tends to Destruction
Ending in Death: which would of itself be Eternal Death
And all are Class'd by Spiritual, & not by Natural power.

And every Natural Effect has a Spiritual Cause, and Not
A Natural: for a Natural Cause only seems, it is a Delusion      
Of Ulro: & a ratio of the perishing Vegetable Memory."

Jerusalem, Plate 8, (E 151)
"All the infant Loves & Graces were lost, for the mighty Hand
Plate 9
Condens'd his Emanations into hard opake substances;
And his infant thoughts & desires, into cold, dark, cliffs of death.
His hammer of gold he siezd; and his anvil of adamant.
He siez'd the bars of condens'd thoughts, to forge them:
Into the sword of war: into the bow and arrow:                   
Into the thundering cannon and into the murdering gun
I saw the limbs form'd for exercise, contemn'd: & the beauty of
Eternity, look'd upon as deformity & loveliness as a dry tree:
I saw disease forming a Body of Death around the Lamb
Of God, to destroy Jerusalem, & to devour the body of Albion     
By war and stratagem to win the labour of the husbandman:
Awkwardness arm'd in steel: folly in a helmet of gold:
Weakness with horns & talons: ignorance with a rav'ning beak!
Every Emanative joy forbidden as a Crime:
And the Emanations buried alive in the earth with pomp of religion:          
Inspiration deny'd; Genius forbidden by laws of punishment:
I saw terrified; I took the sighs & tears, & bitter groans:
I lifted them into my Furnaces; to form the spiritual sword.
That lays open the hidden heart: I drew forth the pang
Of sorrow red hot: I workd it on my resolute anvil:              
I heated it in the flames of Hand, & Hyle, & Coban
Nine times; Gwendolen & Cambel & Gwineverra
Are melted into the gold, the silver, the liquid ruby,
The crysolite, the topaz, the jacinth, & every precious stone,
Loud roar my Furnaces and loud my hammer is heard:               
I labour day and night, I behold the soft affections
Condense beneath my hammer into forms of cruelty
But still I labour in hope, tho' still my tears flow down.
That he who will not defend Truth, may be compelld to defend
A Lie: that he may be snared and caught and snared and taken     
That Enthusiasm and Life may not cease: arise Spectre arise!

Thus they contended among the Furnaces with groans & tears;
Groaning the Spectre heavd the bellows, obeying Los's frowns;
Till the Spaces of Erin were perfected in the furnaces
Of affliction, and Los drew them forth, compelling the harsh Spectre."

Annotations to Reynolds, (E 660) 
mock Inspiration & Vision   Inspiration & Vision was then & now
is & I hope will
always Remain my Element my Eternal Dwelling place. how can I
then hear it Contemnd without returning Scorn for Scorn"   


Susan J. said...

Oh Ellie - this is so very timely for me. I've been thinking about James a lot lately, meaning to look for my copy of "Varieties of Religious Experience" - that's so great, the quotes you excerpted from both James and Blake --

I have to go now, busy morning with my Donald planned - will hope to get back to this wonderful post later today, and also your others from May, which look equally enticing.

Much love,


ellie Clayton said...

The 'variety' itself is commentary on the nature of man and of God in whose image we are created.

Counting My Blessings,

Susan J. said...

I love this part, that you wrote at the beginning:

"The mind which relied on sense data and reasoned processing could not reach what was accessed through a different path... He realized that man cut himself off from his full human potential if he did not develop the dimension of himself which was connected to areas which were unconnected to matter and the reasoning mind. "