Exploring Unseen Worlds

William James and the Philosophy of Mysticism

By G. William Barnard

Subjects: Mysticism
Paperback : 9780791432242, 436 pages, March 1997
Hardcover : 9780791432235, 436 pages, March 1997

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Table of contents




1. Establishing Foundations: Ladders and Laughing Gas, Phantoms and Fathers

Expanding the Boundaries of the Mystical
An Unseen Definition of Mystical Experience
James's Mystical Germ
Climbing the Mystical Ladder
Laughing Gas Revelations
A Pluralistic Mystic
Back on the Ladder of Mystical Experience
The Reality of the Unseen
An Hallucinatory Interlude
Psychical Research
Meetings with a Remarkable Woman: Lenora Piper
"A Suggestion about Mysticism"
"On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings"
Diabolical Mysticism: Mystical Experience and Psychopathology
Saintly Fathers and Suffering Sons

2. Experiencing Unseen Worlds: Towards a Jamesian Epistemology of Mysticism

"We Feel Sorry Because We Cry, Angry Because We Strike": James's Psychology of Emotion
Thoughts about Feelings: James's Emphasis on Religious Experience
A Contemporary Critique of James's Theories of Religious Experience
"Intensely More Real Than Any Ordinary Perception": Mystical Modes of Awareness
Knowledge-By-Acquaintance and Knowledge-About
Carving the State Out of the Stone: Sensing and Perceiving
Mystical Discoveries
Something Old and Something New: Religious Geniuses and Cultural Change
Countless Radiant Windows
Pure Experiences and a Radical Empricism

3. "Fields within Fields within Fields": Mysticism and a Jamesian Psychology of the Self

The Psychology of the Self: From the Outside In and From the Inside Out
Thinking through the Body and Seeing with an Ever-Changing I
How Does the "I" See Itself?
"A Dome of Many-Colored Glass, Stains the White Radiance of Eternity"
The Subliminal Self
The Psychology of Conversion
Salvation and the Higher Self
Earth Angels and Cosmic Selves
The Compounding of Consciousness
A Field Model of the Self and Reality

4. Beyond Words, Beyond Morals: The Metaphysical and Ethical Implications of Mysticism

The Authority of Mystical Consciousness
The Transformative Power of Religious Beliefs
The Science of Religions
What Sort of Oneness?
Mystical Nondualism
A Dual Allegiance
The Moral Holidays of Monistic Mysticism
A Literally Finite God
Beyond Oneness
An Experience of the Problem of Evil
A Spectrum Model of Ethical Life
"Enlightened" Ethics

5. Telling Truths, Touching Realities: Spiritual Judgments, Saints, and Pragmatism

Ambivalent Standards: James's Three Criteria
"By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them"
The Mind-Cure Movement
A "Bad Speculative Omission": The Mind-Cure Movement and the Problem of Evil
Saintliness: "Ripe Fruits of Religion in a Character"
The Ever-Changing Value of Saintliness
A Critique of the Critique: An Examination of James's Assessment of Saintliness
A Philosophical Sleight-of-Hand: Valuable Mystical Experiences or Verified Mystical Truths?
Prayerful "Differences in Fact"
A Pragmatic Theory of Truth
Worlds of Belief
"The Fight is Still Under Way": Different Understanding of Reality
The "Cash-Basis" of Truth
Transforming Visions




Demonstrates convincingly the extent to which James's psychological and philosophical perspectives also continue to be a rich resource for those specifically interested in the study of mysticism. A critically-sophisticated, yet gripping, immersion into the inner worlds of one of America's foremost thinkers.


Exploring Unseen Worlds is a critically sophisticated, yet gripping immersion into the inner worlds of one of America's foremost thinkers. It demonstrates convincingly the extent to which James's psychological and philosophical perspectives continue to be a rich resource for those specifically interested in the study of mysticism. The book focuses on James's enduring fascination with mysticism and not only unearths James's lesser-known works on mysticism, but also probes into the tacit mystical dimensions of James's personal life and uncovers the mystical implications of his decades long interest in psychical research.

G. William Barnard is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University.


"William Barnard has written a comprehensive anlysis of James's works showing the centrality of his views of mysticism and their relation to his theories of consciousness and pragmatism; most innovatively, he also integrates James's own spiritual experiences into the story of hisscientific and religious quest for cosmic meaning. With Barnard's thoroughness, clarity, and sensitivity to the inner life of religious experience, he has composed a work that is refreshing for its ability to speak to both academic and religious audiences. " -- Paul Jerome Croce, Stetson University; author of Eclipse of Certainty: Science and Religion in the Era of William James"Barnard has given us a splendid critical exposition of James's philosophy of mysticism/religion--one that will be of interest and accessible to a range of readers from those who are primarily interested in James's thought to those whose concern is the character and varieties of mysticism. His study centers on the richconcrete experiential data presented in the Varieities of Religious Experience but radiates out to bothJames's earlier and later works. Hence, James's philosophy of mysticism/religion is persuasively shown to be organically related to his metaphysics of experience, psychology, epistemology, and pragmatism. Barnard does not uncritically accept all Jamesian claims nor does his overlook or sugarcoat serious omissions and inconsistencies in James's thought. His creative criticisms, however, invariably both illuminate fruitful Jamesian insights and open them to transactions with other philosophies of mysticism--both Eastern and Western. " -- Eugene Fontinell, author of Self, God, and Immortality: A Jamesian Investigation