Ben, thank you very much for such interesting responses to the two queries posed in this chapter, and many apologies for my tardiness in replying. I have been travelling a great deal these past weeks and regrettably came down a violent and persistent virus.
Your comment about ‘the freedom to approach things from a philosophical place of open-minded and trusting subjectivity and to affirm experience, rather than as Christianity has become accustomed to, appealing straightaway to Dogma and Tradition which ends up becoming a closed circle’ is an excellent summary of James anthropological approach to Christianity. The ‘social other’ as James explains it, is “everything in the world that is other than “me”. It is prior to us and includes other people, the climate, the weather, the country, the geography, the atmosphere, the agriculture that enables food to be grown and so on. The social other brought us into being through our parents or guardians who sustained us till adulthood.” In other words, we are, in essence, relational, imitative beings, not individuals, but interdividuals. None of us is “self made”. You pose the question what is “the most natural way of being without there being any sense of obstacle. But what is this obstacle?” Is it not our natural instinct to desire what the other desires, which is most cases is completely harmless, but in some instances leads to conflict and violence, wonderfully illustrated in James’s work on Original Sin seen through Easter Eyes.
It seems to me in reading your comments that you already have a good grasp of James’s thought. Your use of ‘givenness’ is truly pertinent in this context. “God as the whole show” ? Absolutely! This brings me to the contemplative tradition of Christianity, where the mystery is perhaps best demonstrated in the balance between revelation and the unknowability of God. Why is it necessary to be subjected to the dark night of the soul to arrive the wholeness of spirit, body and mind, that I think you are alluding to? I wish I could attempt an answer to this. Perhaps it is part of the spiritual path that leads us to union with God?