Preface to William James’ “Varieties of Religious Experience”

"[William James] believed, with many another religious thinker, that the sinner is closer to God than the conventionally good man, because life is given us as a passion; it is, as Keats said, a vale of soul-making.  What is characteristic of life is the thing that antedates and denies convention. Convention trims, distorts, and suppresses, for good reasons that we all acknowledge.  But social discipline also weakens and disables, leaving  no merit for the virtuous man who is such only because his spirit is too weak to be tempted.  This is no doubt why saints and apostles more often consort with thieves and prostitutes than with bankers and aldermen”

– Jacques Barzum, from the preface to William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience

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