Jerry Martin’s Daybook

When I had my first divine encounter, I talked to an old friend who advised me to read The Varieties of Religious Experience, a classic by the American philosopher, William James. I read it rather feverishly at the time, as James quotes generously from reports of religious experiences, ancient, modern, and contemporaneous. Moving a stack of books, here was James, and so I picked it up and started reading it again, now in the quieter frame of mind. There is a great deal of scholarly debate these days about the very term, “religion.” It is essentially a modern concept and not one produced by the religious themelves. People immersed in a tradition, don’t call it a “religion,” they call it truth. If they are Hindus, they call it “dharma.” Taoists talk about the Way. James did not have to worry about the latest epicycle of scholarly dispute. He gave the following simple definition: “the life of religion” consists of “the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto.” Doesn’t that about sum it up?

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