Saturday, July 05, 2014


"Pray go back and recollect one of the conclusions to which I sought to lead you in my very first lecture," William James implores us in Lecture #10 of his VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE: "You may remember how I there argued against the notion that the worth of a thing can be decided by its origin." So that told me that Bill Taft was right, or very close to right, in his fine guess about what William James meant! Plus it was a clue about where to find that thing about St. Paul that has been bugging my memory... because the index was no help. The index of this musty old paperback is inadequate. INADEQUATE! And the print is so tiny and the lines so close together... but I went back to the very first lecture, as William James begged me to do, and found the passage I was thinking of, which begins, "Medical materialism finishes up Saint Paul by calling his vision on the road to Damascus a discharging lesion of the occipital cortex... It snuffs out Saint Teresa as an hysteric, Saint Francis of Assisi as an hereditary degenerate. George Fox's discontent with the shams of his age, and his pining for spiritual veracity, it treats as the symptom of a disordered colon. Carlyle's organ-tones of misery it accounts for by a gastro-duodenal catarrh." I have to stop typing now, or else I'm going to find myself typing a lot of stuff like, "To plead the organic causation of a religious state of mind, then, in refutation of its claim to possess superior spiritual value, is quite illogical and arbitrary, unless one has already worked out in advance some psycho-physical theory connecting spiritual values in general with determinate sorts of physiological change." Ugh, my head hurts now, does that count?