by William Van Ornum, Ph.D. on
Last summer I was privileged to be able to reexamine and write about William James and his study of religion and mental health. Although James was aware that religious experiences could lead to or accompany emotional problems, and he used the term sick soul to speak of this, he was fundamentally intrigued by how religion was an asset to health. He put a great deal of effort into studying “The Religion of Healthy Mindedness,” and the following quote from “The Varieties of Religious Experience” suggests some of the elements he views as important constituents of religion and mental health:
“There is a state of mind, known to religious men, but to no others, in which the will to assert ourselves and hold our own has been displaced by a willingness to close our mouths and be as nothing in the floods and waterspouts of God. In this state of mind, what we dreaded most has become the habitation of our safety, and the hour of our moral death has turned into our spiritual birthday. The time for tension in the soul is over, and that of happy relaxation, of calm deep breathing, of an eternal present, with no discordant future to be anxious about, has arrived. Fear is not held in abeyance as it is by mere morality, it is positively expunged and washed away.”
An online column is featured this week at AMERICA Magazine, noting the work of AMHF and including a discussion on some of the material from William James.