At the End of Modern Security: William James on Religious Experience
William James defends religious belief as a reasonable option against a kind of widespread agnosticism which he calls scientific absolutism, and against the dogmatism which he sees in the natural theology of his time. On the basis of his collection of essays “The Will to Believe”, the article reconstructs his arguments and the epistemological foundation of his famous treatment of religious experience in “The Varieties of Religious Experience”. James’ pragmatistic approach, which he calls radical empiricism, resists the exclusion of “mystical” experiences of conversion and redemption, and of religious faith from the realm of reasonable attitudes. Experiences of the astonishing gift of being, of trust and openness, courage and motivation to endure life’s evils can validate religious faith.
In so far as modern rationality with its highest expression in the sciences is rooted in an existential quest for security, the underlying attitude towards life unnecessarily prevents personal experiences of the divine and salvation and unreasonably devaluates attitudes of faith. James defends the desiring nature of human beings and opens up the space for legitimate religious experience.
Mysticism as Act. Philosophy and Spirituality in Maurice Blondel
Mysticism plays a crucial role at the background of Maurice Blondel’s ‘philosophy of action’ (1893). In the years after his main work, his interest for mysticism increases. The discussion about the role of mysticism is even the battlefield of his debate with Jacques Maritain (1882–1973), who criticizes Blondel of allowing in his philosophy a direct contact with the Divine. Maritain does not accuse Blondel of ‘modernism’, but is very close to it. In order to explain his understanding of mysticism, the article outlines the intensive cooperation between Blondel and Henri Bremond (1865–1933). Blondel was of main influence for Bremond’s text on poetry and prayer in which mysticism plays an important role. At the end of the article the role of this discussion on mysticism and philosophy for Blondel’s social philosophy has been elaborated.
Why Does Bergson Understand Religion From the Perspective of Mysticism?
In his book Bergson makes first of all the distinction between closed societies, with a static religion, and open societies with the dynamic religion. In fact those dynamic religions are the world religions, and they are understood from the perspective of mysticism. Bergson does not accept the opposition between a mystical and a technical worldview. To the contrary, they are related to each other, especially in Christianity, by the virtue of charity. Charity, and therefore technics, is the practical dimension of mysticism. From the perspective of the mystical experience, an intuition of unity with the totality, Bergson tries to rethink the proof of the existence of God, the immortality of man and the theodicy. Modern man, as a technical man represents a special phase in the history of the evolution of nature and its divine ‘elan vital’. It is a phenomenon in which nature shows a new dimension of itself. Because the technical dimension enlarges man’s capacity of transcendence of the sense of given reality, it creates new possibilities for mystical experience. Modern man needs this mysticism because only mysticism can be the soul within the body of the technical world created by man.