The Varieties of Religious Experience
In the first lecture, James sets the ground rules or dimensions of the topic he will be discussing. He starts off with religion and neurology; this lecture deals with two very different perspectives. James presents a battle between value and facts. Under the three criteria of value, religious experiences would be composed of immediate illumination to see life clearly, reasonable thinking where everything makes sense, and moral helpfulness that would transform you into a better person. Neurology also has its questions of fact that make these experiences seem neurotic and unreal, that’s why James also establishes the possibility that the brain has a major role on these experiences as well. On the other hand, neurology’s conclusion would be that our brains conduct religious experiences and illusions that to us might seem real. Neurologists would try to explain how the brain works and the tricks it can play on us. The criticism of medical materialism would make religious experiences insignificant, for those experiences are only acts of the brain. James states that, as he is neither a theologian nor a scholar in the history of religion, nor an anthropologist. His talks are based on "a descriptive survey" of religious tendencies that project themselves through the examples he offers. James also discusses how he defines religious experience through the circumscription of the topic. He explains how it is impossible to make our definitions sharp. In this lecture I learned how words have limits, no matter how extended is our vocabulary, there are experiences we can’t put in words. Unlike the scientific study in regards to religious experience, James does not judge an individual as mentally deranged simply because that person has an unexplainable incident. Rather, he looks at religious experience as something serious. Religion forms a relation with an individual and the divine. James states how important it is to...
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