Beyond the Temple and the Cave: William James, E.J. Pratt, and Christian-Spiritualist Syncretisms
Abstract

abstract:

Although the Canadian poet E.J. Pratt had lifelong attachments to the Methodist and then United Church, critics have struggled to reconcile the various aspects of Pratt's religious vision as they materialize in his writing. Focusing on one largely ignored aspect of that vision, this article examines Pratt's mystical and spiritualist poetry of the 1920s and 1930s. More precisely, it considers Pratt's blending of spiritualist and Christian thought in relation to the syncretistic, non-dogmatic, anti-institutional notion of "personal religion" advanced in William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience, thus illuminating at once both Pratt's religious commitments and a seldom-discussed point of contact between James's philosophy and modernist literature. Ultimately, this article argues that, as a result of his exposure to James and to spiritualism in the crucible of Toronto's liberal Protestant milieu, Pratt – like many other writers of his time – began to move beyond the polarities of personal and institutional religion.


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