The relationship between science and religion has been difficult to explain over the years. It has not been feasible for many philosophers as well as scientists to explain the duality of this divergent phenomenon which seems to control the lives of men in many varied forms. However one of the earliest proponents of harmonization of scientific thought and religion is William James, who through his observations on psychology of religion had in the early part of the 20th Century brought out the rationality of varieties of religious experiences including mysticism, conversion, repentance and saintliness.
The key issues indicate that science and religion can be harmonized when seen from an individual perspective by explaining the correlation between the mind and the body, study of existentialism and spirituality and an understanding of the middle passion as explained by James. The human body as per William James is the center of all being and happenings that a person undergoes. It is the focus of the identity of a person and is also said to be the driver of all conscious experience of man along with the mind.
James has placed the body at the centre of everything that affects our vision, our action and our interests. This provides the order in our expereinces. But the mind cannot be separated from the body and thus there is an integrated whole that is formed from a fluid interactoin between the body and the mind. James believed that the physical changes could take place due to ones experiences, but it could not be the other way around, in that physical changes cannot cause experiences to happen.
The self in a being has to thus contextualize between the development of human temporal powers and interaction that the body has with the environment in the context of the activity that he undergoes. The self is thus in a process of evolution and is not a fixation which has been arrived at with ones growth. This continuous development of the self is governed by the practical requirements of an individual’s existence. Thus the empirical has a very important part in the growth and development of the being.
These life experiences build on the self to provide them the quality and character that determines ones individuality and doings. James believes that these dimensions cannot be explained by concepts and are far beyond verbalization. There is thus an effective connect as per James between the body and the mind and how these two interact with each other within the given environment. The mind body determination is further explained by clearly denoting experiences of real life persons particularly those who have lived a perfectly healthy and good life enlightening others.
These thoughts were also the cause of his actively supporting the mind – cure movement. Thus it was felt that a person with a positive mind would foster a healthy body. The connection is also amplified by his determination on the question of medical materialism in that he believed that the medical proclivities of a person cannot necessarily determine his religious beliefs and that these were contained in the experiences that a person has had over the years in his life.
The individuals on whom James based his findings were all exceptional and thus their experiences were used by him to provide a larger focus on the more common issues, an enlarged microscopic view of reality. They were also those who were fired by the need to explain their spirituality, thereby providing to James ideal subjects to indicate the veracity of his theories. These were such luminaries as Walt Whitman on whom he relied extensively to prove his mind cure theories along with Martin Luther, John Bunyan and finally Leo Tolstoy.