Comparing James And Jung's Perspectives On Religious Experience

1332 words - 5 pages

1. Are the perspectives on religious experience presented in William James’ Varieties and in Jung compatible? Briefly explain and compare them.
For William James, his perspective on religious experience was skeptical. He divided religion between institutional religion and personal religion. For institutional religion he made reference to the religious group or organization that plays a critical part in the culture of a society. Personal religion he defined as when an individual has a mystical experience which can occur regardless of the culture. James was more focused on the personal religious experience, “the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine” (Varieties, 31), and had a sort of distain for organized and institutional religion.
James’ focus on the mystic experiences that religion entails was characterized by four circumstances. These four circumstances were ineffability, a noetic quality, mystical states are transient, and people can’t control when the experiences come and go. For ineffability, the experience must be had by a person and cannot be transferred to another. By noetic quality he was stating that the mystical state came as a state of knowledge to the individual. James goes on to ask if these states are “windows through which the mind looks out upon a more extensive and inclusive world” (Varieties, 428).
For Carl Jung, his view on religious experience was based on all experiences being a psychological phenomenon. He differed from James in his view that a personal or individual experience with a God was indistinguishable from a communication with one’s unconscious mind. He believed that there was a spiritual purpose beyond material goals, which was to discover and fulfill an innate potential that we each held. Central to Jung’s process of finding one’s innate potential was the idea of the numinous. This is characterized by the power or presence of a divinity. This was closely related to the idea of synchronicity, which is when two or more events that seem to be unrelated occur together in a meaningful way, and would be unlikely to occur by chance.
Jung’s idea of experiences of synchronicity included the presence of archetypes. An archetype is an ideal example or model person that others copy or base their actions upon. Jung had archetypes such as the animus, the anima, and the shadow. The animus is expressed as a masculine inner personality in females, while the anima is expressed as a feminine inner personality in males. The shadow archetype consists of repressed shortcomings, weaknesses, and instincts. These archetypes are of the collective unconscious, and not based on people in their daily lives.
While there are some similarities between James’ and Jung’s views on religious experience, there is also a great deal of opposing views. James was focused on the mystic experience...

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