William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) Summary. The aim here is to summarise the work generally, highlighting ideas of particular interest.

Lecture 8: The Divided Self

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In this lecture, James explores the inner conflict of the twice-born. He suggests that:

The psychological basis of the twice-born character seems to be a certain discordancy or heterogeneity in the native temparament of the subject, an incompletely unified moral and intellectual constitution. [p 167]

The normal evolution of character

He claims that in all of us there is a

normal evolution of character which chiefly consist[s] in the straightening out and unifying of the inner self. [p 170]

Initially, there are in all of us:

[t]he higher and the lower feelings, the useful and the erring impulses. [p 170]

These have to be organised into the proper stable hierarchy; while this organisation is taking place, there tends to be unhappiness.

Two deadly hostile selves

In a religiously minded individual, background-color:yellow;the unhappiness will take the form of moral remorse and compunction, of feeling inwardly vile and wrong. [p 170] Thus religious melancholy and conviction of sinhave loomed large in Protestantism. And again:

The man's interior is a battle-ground for what he feels to be two deadly hostile selves, one actual, the other ideal. [p 171]

The writer devotes most of the lecture to various individualstestimonies on the matter. His cases are St Augustine of Hippo, Tolstoy and Bunyan, along with some nowadays totally forgotten religious writers.

(c) John C Durham, 2002

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