Does not, for example, the worship of material luxury and wealth, which constitutes so large a portion of the 'spirit' of our age, make somewhat for effeminacy and unmanliness? Is not the exclusively sympathetic and facetious way in which most children are brought up to-day--so different from the education of a hundred years ago, especially in evangelical circles--in danger, in spite of its many advantages, of developing a certain trashiness of fibre? Are there not herabouts some points of application for a renovated and revised ascetic discipline?("The Value of Saintliness" pg. 317)
Not only is this quote noteworthy because of its somewhat subtle sexism (James was a Victorian/Edwardian white, upper-class, intellectual male after all), but also for its "These kids today!" lamentation. Yet more evidence that there never was some Golden Age when kids were perfect and everyone had "character" and every generation didn't think the kids were going to hell in a handbasket because it just wasn't like it was in the "good old days."
"'Live and let live,'" writes a clear-headed Austrian officer, "is no device for an army. Contempt for one's own comrades, for the troops of the enemy, and, above all, fierce contempt for one's own person, are what war demands of every one. Far better is it for an army to be too savage, too cruel, too barbarous, than to possess too much sentimentality and human reasonableness. If the solider is to be good for anything as a solider, he must be exactly the opposite of a reasoning and thinking man. The measure of goodness in him is his possible use in war. War, and even peace, require of the solider absolutely peculiar standards of morality. The recruit brings with him common moral notions, of which he must seek immediately to get rid. For him victory, success, must be everything. The most barbaric tendencies in men come to life again in war, and for war's uses they are incommensurably good."("The Value of Saintliness" pg. 318)
This quote is rather chilling, especially with Iraq and all. What's even worse is that a lot of what this guy is saying makes a very barbaric sort of sense. A military really can't be sweetness and light and still be effective.
...Boehme writes of the Primal Love, that "it may fitly be compared to Nothing, for it is deeper than any Thing, and is as nothing with respect to all things, forasmuch as it is not comprehensible by any of them. And because it is nothing respectively, it is therefore free from all things, and is that only good, which a man cannot express or utter what it is, there being nothing to which it may be compared, to express it by."
"Love," continues Boehme, is Nothing, for "when thou art gone forth wholly from the Creature and from that which is visible, and art become Nothing to all that is Nature and Creature, then thou art in that eternal One, which is God himself, and then thou shalt feel within thee the highest virtue of Love....The treasure of treasures for the sould is where she goeth out of the Somewhat into that Nothing out of which all things may be made. The soul here saith, I have nothing, for I am utterly stripped and naked; I can do nothing, for I have no manner of power, but am as water poured out; I am nothing, for all that I am is no more an image of Being, and only God is to me I AM; and so, sitting down in my own Nothingness, I give glory to the eternal Being, and will nothing of myself, that so God may will all in me, being unto me my God and all things."
("Mysticism" pg. 361-362)
This quote appealed to me because of my own interest in the concept of "nothing" and its philosophical implications.
...we follow the majority because to do so suits our life.
("Mysticism" pg. 367)
This quote is just so true. It's hard being an outsider, which is why most people are such sheep. Hey, I'm not proud; I'll admit I've "bah-bah"-ed with the best of 'em!
Knowledge about a thing is not the thing itself.... to understand the causes of drunkenness, as a physician understands them, is not to be drunk.Knowledge and experience are two different things, a distinction that we surprisingly often forget. I may know a lot of stuff about S&M, for instance, but that does not necessarily mean I am a participant in S&M activity.("Conclusions" pg. 421)
Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through your being, is another.("Conclusions" pg. 421)
Just another way of saying you have to live life, not just think about living it. This is particularly evocative for me, since that's what I tend to do: think about living instead of going out and actually doing it.
"The truth of the matter can be put," says Leuba, "in this way: God is not known, he is not understood; he is used--sometimes as meat-purveyor, sometimes as moral support, sometimes as friend, sometimes as an object of love. If he proves himself useful, the religious consciousness asks for no more than that. Does God really exist? How does he exist? What is he? are so many irrelevant questions. Not God, but life, more life, a larger, richer, more satisfying life, is, in the last analysis, the end of religion. The love of life, at any and every level of development, is the religious impulse."("Conclusions" pg. 434-435)
This, I think is a very perceptive view of religion. I think for a lot of the religious, the intricacies and theologies and dogmas of God don't really much matter. As long as they feel something that meets their needs, that is enough.
No fact in human nature is more characteristic than its willingness to live on a chance.("Conclusions" pg. 450)
This, I think, is sheer poetic truth. As long as we think we have a chance at something (wealth, happiness, enlightenment, whatever) all the miseries and frustrations and minor vexations of life are bearable.
William James. The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2004.