I referenced this book in the horror & spirituality and creative madness threads, linking to a free e-copy. This is one of those pivotal and seminal tomes that in essence started the human potential and transpersonal psychology movements, ultimately leading to us here. I think it might behoove us to explore it, especially since it is free, and also quite deep and fascinating. Recall some of the insights it provided in the above threads. To kick off this thread, since we're exploring expressions of an integral postmetaphysical spirituality, let's see how James defines religion and divinity in Lecture II:

"Religion therefore, as I now ask you arbitrarily to take it, shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine. Since the relation may be either moral, physical, or ritual, it is evident that out of religion in the sense in which we take it, theologies, philosophies, and ecclesiastical organizations may secondarily grow. In these lectures, however, as I have already said, the immediate personal experiences will amply fill our time, and we shall hardly consider theology or ecclesiasticism at all."

(Recall recently this article that points to exactly this focus in transpersonal psychology, and to the neglect of the social aspect.)

"The sort of appeal that Emersonian optimism, on the one hand, and Buddhistic pessimism, on the other, make to the individual and the sort of response which he makes to them in his life are in fact indistinguishable from, and in many respects identical with, the best Christian appeal and response. We must therefore, from the experiential point of view, call these godless or quasi-godless creeds 'religions'; and accordingly when in our definition of religion we speak of the individual's relation to 'what he considers the divine,' we must interpret the term 'divine' very broadly, as denoting any object that is godlike, whether it be a concrete deity or not.

"But the term 'godlike,' if thus treated as a floating general quality, becomes exceedingly vague, for many gods have flourished in religious history, and their attributes have been discrepant enough. What then is that essentially godlike quality- be it embodied in a concrete deity or not- our relation to which determines our character as religious men? It will repay us to seek some answer to this question before we proceed farther.

"For one thing, gods are conceived to be first things in the way of being and power. They overarch and envelop, and from them there is no escape. What relates to them is the first and last word in the way of truth. Whatever then were most primal and enveloping and deeply true might at this rate be treated as godlike, and a man's religion might thus be identified with his attitude, whatever it might be, towards what he felt to be the primal truth."

Metaphysical? Post? Neither? Both? Combination?


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Now we're getting somewhere, from the same lecture:

"But all these intellectual operations, whether they be constructive or comparative and critical, presuppose immediate experiences as their subject-matter. They are interpretative and inductive operations, operations after the fact, consequent upon religious feeling, not coordinate with it, not independent of what it ascertains.

"The intellectualism in religion which I wish to discredit pretends to be something altogether different from this. It assumes to construct religious objects out of the resources of logical reason alone, or of logical reason drawing rigorous inference from non-subjective facts. It calls its conclusions dogmatic theology, or philosophy of the absolute, as the case may be; it does not call them science of religions. It reaches them in an a priori way, and warrants their veracity."

So while the above is showing the base of thought in bodily experience, and questioning a disembodied, a priori, metaphysical type of rationality, it still seems to assume said "experience" is direct in a type of religious  (metaphysical) realism. Granted he doesn't have the benefit of the cogsicprago research and their distinctive embodied realism, which doesn't accept experience as the thing in itself. More comment when I read further.

James does admit that such feelings are themselves dumb and it takes the intellect to articulate them. He might hint that the latter is what in fact transforms base feelings into the divine through interpretation. Nonetheless without the base feeling there is no leg to stand on, literally. And said interpretations are shaped by culture (but I like the way he says it better):

"The philosophic climate of our time inevitably forces its own clothing on us."

It is also our philosophic interpretation of experience that seeks the general from the particular, the universal formulas to add coherence to what otherwise might seem random, brute impulse. It is here that we seek “objective” standards. James comments:

“It will suffice if I show that as a matter of history it fails to prove its pretension to be 'objectively' convincing. In fact, philosophy does so fail.”

So our drive to universalize said religious feeling fails. James derails the argument by design, the moral argument and the argument ex consensu gentium. It is the rational drive to make sense and order out of chaos, which then overlays “reality” with said order that wasn’t there from the start. In essence, it creates an “underlying” reality that pre-originates the sensible reality and hence takes the metaphysical, absolutist turn.

Ah, back to “work.” To be continued.


“The Continental schools of philosophy have too often overlooked the fact that man's thinking is organically connected with his conduct. It seems to me to be the chief glory of English and Scottish thinkers to have kept the organic connection in view.... An American philosopher of eminent originality, Mr. Charles Sanders Peirce, has rendered thought a service by disentangling from the particulars of its application the principle by which these men were instinctively guided, and by singling it out as fundamental and giving to it a Greek name. He calls it the principle of pragmatism.”


He then launches into a diatribe against Kant's transcendental ego and like minds that came thereafter, like Hegel, who do not maintain this organic connection. However philosophy is redeemed in that it can provide an invaluable service, much like what our friend Sam Harris champions:


“Both from dogma and from worship she can remove historic incrustations. By confronting the spontaneous religious constructions with the results of natural science, philosophy can also eliminate doctrines that are now known to be scientifically absurd or incongruous.”


In the final lecture (XX) James confirms my own pet theory that religious feeling is connected to the subconscious, which itself is connected to those deep and primal areas of brain-consciousness. Granted James didn't have benefit of our neuroscientific research to see that latter and to even further de-mystify the experience. He says:

“We must begin by using less particularized terms; and, since one of the duties of the science of religions is to keep religion in connection with the rest of science, we shall do well to seek first of all a way of describing the 'more,' which psychologists may also recognize as real. The subconscious self is nowadays a well-accredited psychological entity; and I believe that in it we have exactly the mediating term required. Apart from all religious considerations, there is actually and literally more life in our total soul than we are at any time aware of.

“Let me then propose, as an hypothesis, that whatever it may be on its farther side, the 'more' with which in religious experience we feel ourselves connected is on its hither side the subconscious continuation of our conscious life. Starting thus with a recognized psychological fact as our basis, we seem to preserve a contact with 'science' which the ordinary theologian lacks. At the same time the theologian's contention that the religious man is moved by an external power is vindicated, for it is one of the peculiarities of invasions from the subconscious region to take on objective appearances, and to suggest to the Subject an external control. In the religious life the control is felt as 'higher'; but since on our hypothesis it is primarily the higher faculties of our own hidden mind which are controlling, the sense of union with the power beyond us is a sense of something, not merely apparently, but literally true.

“This doorway into the subject seems to me the best one for a science of religions, for it mediates between a number of different points of view. Yet it is only a doorway, and difficulties present themselves as soon as we step through it, and ask how far our transmarginal consciousness carries us if we follow it on its remoter side. Here the over-beliefs begin: here mysticism and the conversion-rapture and Vedantism and transcendental idealism bring in their monistic interpretations and tell us that the finite self rejoins the absolute self, for it was always one with God and identical with the soul of the world. Here the prophets of all the different religions come with their visions, voices, raptures, and other openings, supposed by each to authenticate his own peculiar faith.”

However there is still quite a touch of that mystification in him. Even though he questions the metaphysical interpretations of said experience it seems he still adheres to a direct perception of this “beyond,” which is beyond embodiment in the more Platonic realm of pure Idea of Spirit, our subconscious embodiment as intermediary, not source. Continuing:

“Disregarding the over-beliefs, and 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. If I now proceed to state my own hypothesis about the farther limits of this extension of our personality, I shall be offering my own over-belief- though I know it will appear a sorry under-belief to some of you- for which I can only bespeak the same indulgence which in a converse case I should accord to yours.

“The further limits of our being plunge, it seems to me, into an altogether other dimension of existence from the sensible and merely 'understandable' world. Name it the mystical region, or the supernatural region, whichever you choose. So far as our ideal impulses originate in this region (and most of them do originate in it, for we find them possessing us in a way for which we cannot articulately account), we belong to it in a more intimate sense than that in which we belong to the visible world, for we belong in the most intimate sense wherever our ideals belong. Yet the unseen region in question is not merely ideal, for it produces effects in this world. When we commune with it, work is actually done upon our finite personality, for we are turned into new men, and consequences in the way of conduct follow in the natural world upon our regenerative change. But that which produces effects within another reality must be termed a reality itself, so I feel as if we had no philosophic excuse for calling the unseen or mystical world unreal.”

It is real all right, but not embodied realism. Again, this is before the benefit of cogsci and he was on the right track. Nonetheless we can see this subtle Cartesian split continuing to play out in our transpersonal and trademarked integral movements.

I think this fits here, illustrations of Philip K. Dick's religious experiences. I'm a Dickhead from way back. I enclose the first illustration below. See the link for more.

Wow, t - what an amazing story. The website Brain Pickings is quite trippy too - I think I'll read a few of the articles.

theurj said:

I think this fits here, illustrations of Philip K. Dick's religious experiences. I'm a Dickhead from way back. I enclose the first illustration below. See the link for more.

Quote above from Nancy Frankenberry, in Religion and Radical Empiricism (p. 96), referencing Lecture 20 (Conclusion) of The Varieties of Religious Experience. The actual William James quote is:
"What the more characteristically divine facts are, apart from the actual inflow of energy in the faith-state and the prayer-state, I know not. But the over-belief on which I am ready to make my personal venture is that they exist."

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

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