posted on Sep, 30 2012 @ 12:37 PM
The Varieties of Religious Experience
by William James (full text available
via link) is an exploration of exactly the phenomenon you have brought up here, jhill.
(Thx for the invite)...
His summation, from a psychological point of view based on late/mid 1800's thought, is that each of us -- as unique individuals with unique
experiences, backgrounds, upbringings, circumstances, perspectives, and intelligence -- necessarily MUST experience the Spirit in a unique way. In
the early part of his conclusion, he says:
Ought it to be assumed that in all men the mixture of religion with other elements should be identical? Ought it, indeed, to be
assumed that the lives of all men should show identical religious elements? In other words, is the existence of so many religious types and sects and
 For example, on pages
To these questions I answer "No" emphatically. And my reason is that I do not see how it is possible that creatures in such different
positions and with such different powers as human individuals are, should have exactly the same functions and the same duties. No two of us have
identical difficulties, nor should we be expected to work out identical solutions.
Each, from his peculiar angle of observation, takes in a certain sphere of fact and trouble, which each must deal with in a unique manner. One of us
must soften himself, another must harden himself; one must yield a point, another must stand firm -- in order the better to defend the position
assigned him. If an Emerson were forced to be a Wesley, or a Moody forced to be a Whitman, the total human consciousness of the divine would suffer.
The divine can mean no single quality, it must mean a group of qualities, by being champions of which in alternation, different men may all find
worthy missions. Each attitude being a syllable in human nature's total message, it takes the whole of us to spell the meaning out completely. So a
"god of battles" must be allowed to be the god for one kind of person, a god of peace and heaven and home, the god for another.
We must frankly recognize the fact that we live in partial systems, and that parts are not interchangeable in the spiritual life. If we are peevish
and jealous, destruction of the self must be an element of our religion; why need it be one if we are good and sympathetic from the outset? If we are
sick souls, we require a religion of deliverance; but why think so much of deliverance, if we are healthy-minded? 
Unquestionably, some men have the completer experience and the higher vocation, here just as in the social world; but for each man to
stay in his own experience, whate'er it be, and for others to tolerate him there, is surely best.
I don't think I can improve upon his understanding of the uniqueness of Religious Experience and Perspective.
If, indeed, the Spirit dwells within us all, it must naturally respond to the circumstances and personalities of each of us, on a case by case basis,
so to speak, in whatever form and adaptation best serves.
edit on 30-9-2012 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)
edit on 30-9-2012 by wildtimes because: coloring