The Twice-Born Blues

File Under: There are two kinds of people in this world…

“The last lecture was a painful one, dealing as it did with evil as a pervasive element of the world we live in.  at the close of it we were brought into full view of the contrast between the two ways of looking at life which are characteristic respectively of what we called the healthy-minded, who need to be born only once, and of the sick souls, who must be twice-born in order to be happy.  The result is two different conceptions of the universe of our experience.  In the religion of the once-born the world is a sort of rectilinear or one-storied affair, whose accounts are kept in one denomination, whose parts have just the values which naturally they appear to have, and of which a simple algebraic sum of pluses and minuses will give the total worth.  Happiness and religious peace consist in living on the plus side of the account.  In the religion of the twice-born, on the other hand, the world is a double-storied mystery.  Peace cannot be reached by the simple addition of pluses and elimination of minuses from life.  Natural good is not simply insufficient in amount and transient, there lurks a falsity in its very being.  Cancelled as it all is by death if not by earlier enemies, it gives no final balance, and can never be the thing intended for our lasting worship.  It keeps us from our real good, rather; and renunciation and despair of it are our first step in the direction of the truth.  There are two lives, the natural and the spiritual, and we must lose the one before we can participate in the other.”

— Henry James, Varieties of Religious Experience (henceforth to be known as VORE)

PS It would be funny to do a Cosmo-style quiz that answered the question as to whether one was once or twice born, the supportive, twee-toned summary of one’s personality and all!

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