Quote of William James, and the Search for the Divine


“‘Love your enemies!’ Mark you, not simply those who happen not to be your friends, but your enemies, your positive and active enemies. Either this is a mere Oriental hyperbole, a bit of verbal extravagance meaning only that we should, as far as we can, abate our animosities, or else it is sincere and literal. Outside of certain cases of intimate individual relation, it seldom has been taken literally. Yet it makes one ask the question: Can there in general be a level of emotion so unifying, so obliterative of differences between man and man, that even enmity may come to an irrelevant circumstance and fail to inhibit the friendlier interests aroused?  …

Psychologically and in principle, the precept ‘Love your enemies’ is not self-contradictory. It is merely the extreme limit of a kind of magnanimity with which, in the shape of pitying tolerance of our oppressors, we are fairly familiar. Yet, if radically followed, it would involve such a breach with our instinctive springs of action as a whole, and with the present world’s arrangements, that a critical point would practically be passed, and we should be born into another kingdom of being. Religious emotion makes us feel that other kingdom to be close at hand, within our reach.”                   

  –William James, “The Varieties of Religious Experience“, under “Saintliness”

Cover of "The Varieties of Religious Expe...

Cover of The Varieties of Religious Experience

I put an blogpost on a couple of days ago about some prophecies regarding the Philippines… prophecies that allegedly predicted Typhoon Yolanda (although the predictions vary wildly from the actual calamity) and allegedly predicted flesh-eating bacteria plague from Pangasinan (although nothing like a plague (yet?) exists).

I was surprised at how many read this blogpost. Looking at the search terms, it was clear that this was no accident. So many wanted to read about these alleged prophecies.

It led me to wonder why. Why would people be desperately searching these alleged prophecies… many apparently in hopes that they are true? Do we really want God to be cursing a country with floods and plagues because they did not accept a blessing (another alleged thing that they apparently haven’t even been given yet)?

I suppose some people were curious but do not want to believe… but looking at some of the other blogposts, there definitely are a large number of people that have unwarranted (and uncritical) exuberance with regards to the prophecies. They want them to be true it appears.

Maybe I have a guess why. People want to feel… to touch… to experience the Divine. They go to practitioners of “divine magic” (some clearly charlatans… some, who knows?) in hopes of a visceral experience of God. The desperation is so great that people will even seek out a fairly hateful prophecy. After all, if it can be said to have come true, perhaps that is a bit of divinity that one can build one’s faith upon.

I guess I would go back to the quote from William James. Love, as Jesus directed, is a bit of the Divine worth seeking out and living out. Better than trying to make some “prophecies” seem real. Divine love is certainly truer evidence of God than predicting bad weather in the typhoon belt, or diseases in a  tropical country.

Instead of looking for the evidence of the divine… why don’t we seek to BE the evidence of the Divine.

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