Does a 'cosmic consciousness' exist? Immortality and ethics in James' religious pragmatism

: William James' investigation of religious experience neglected consideration of immortality. This was likely because, as James saw it, belief in personal immortality often engenders what can be called spiritual provincialism. In Human Immortality: Two Supposed Objections to the Doctrine (1897/1979), James brings up the phenomenon of psychological overload that occurs when an individual considers the immense numbers of humans who would inhabit Heaven if spiritual merit were determined democratically. Consideration of James' example shows the beginnings of his pragmatic notion of immortality, one that is influenced by the religious philosophy of Henry James, Sr., and which focuses on the undeniable connections among people on earth rather than the immutable persistence of individual souls in Heaven. Those who have considered the implications of James' notion of immortality as it relates to the notion of worldly embeddedness include French writer Romain Rolland, who, inspired in part by the work of James, advocates a socialistic religious philosophy. With reference to Rolland and the elder James, as well as contemporary Christian pragmatist Cornel West, James' view can be more clearly understood.
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DOI 10.2979/TRA.2006.42.3.417
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