Take-home Midterm #2
Answer the following two questions, based on the James text, class discussion, and your own analysis.  These questions will examine your understanding of the material, as well as your ability to reason about the ideas that we have explored.  Your response to EACH of the following two questions should be at least two to three double-spaced pages in length.  The exam will be due Tuesday, April 29.
As a psychologist, James observes that
A man’s ideas, aims, and objects form diverse internal groups and systems, relatively independent of one another. (193)
The conversion process begins with the conscious establishment of a spiritual “hot spot”:
To say that a man is “converted” means, in these terms, that religious ideas, previously peripheral in his consciousness, now take a central place, and that religious aims form the habitual centre of his energy. (196) Everything has to re-crystallize about it. (197)
And yet, as C. G. Jung observes, this process requires coming up against internal forces that are not a function of the conscious will at all:
Just as circumstances or outside events “happen” to us and limit our freedom, so the Self acts upon the ego like an objective occurrence which free will can do little to alter. (Aion: 6)
Which leads James to observe that:
…when the will has done its utmost towards bringing one close to the complete unification aspired after, it seems that the very last step must be left to other forces and performed without the help of its activity. (208)
It is clear that James and Jung both view the “conversion” process as the development of a new kind of relationship with the Self. Describe the structure of the human psyche, as we examined it in class, and the nature of this inner transformation. In what respect is “conversion” understood to be a penetration into the “unseen”? Why does James feel that the very last step of the process must be left to forces other than the conscious will? And if it ispossible to experience the “divine”, why does James suggest that this kind of psychological conversion may be prerequisite?
In your opinion, is what James describes philosophically reasonable? Would you agree with James that these experiences actually make one more whole – that is, they are ultimately morally helpful? Would you view such “conversion” events as strictly a psychological phenomenon, or possibly some kind of divine communion (as is sometimes suggested), or what?
In examining “Brotherly Love”, one of the fruits of saintliness, James observes that
Psychologically and in principle, the precept ‘Love your enemies’ is not self-contradictory.  It is merely the extreme limit of a kind of magnanimity with which, in the shape of pitying tolerance of our oppressors, we are fairly familiar.  Yet if radically followed, it would involve such a breach with our instinctive springs of action as a whole, and with the present world’s arrangements, that a critical point would be practically passed, and we should be born into another kingdom of being. (283-284)
For James, how is such extreme and “instinct-breaching” magnanimity actually possible?  Based on James’ psychological model, what is that transpires within the “saint” that allows enmity to become “an irrelevant circumstance”?  In your opinion, is this kind of magnanimity (“agape”) an example of humanity at its best (Buddhism: becoming normal), or is this just “a bit of verbal extravagance”?  What is it that leads James to believe that the value of saintliness really “cannot be measured absolutely?”