Of William James and Alphabetic Writing

On Tuesday afternoon, with a few hours before I had to catch my flight out of Boston, I was able to spend some quality time in Harvard’s Houghton Library with the original (handwritten) manuscript of The Varieties of Religious Experience, a very famous book written by the illustrious American psychologist-philosopher William James (brother, by the way, of the novelist Henry James).

Someday, I plan to publish a short note regarding a particular feature of the book.  (More on that in due course, probably a year or two down the pike.)

In the meantime, though, what astonished me — and not for the first time — was the genius of . . . the alphabet, perhaps the greatest invention of, or the greatest gift ever given to, humanity.

In the case of William James (d. 1910), twenty-six distinct little marks, repeated in varying combinations on paper, conveyed to me with remarkable accuracy and comprehensiveness the thoughts and even the personality of a man who died a hundred and two years ago and whom, obviously, I’ve never met.

That’s remarkable, if you seriously consider it.  It’s astonishing.  A daily miracle, of a sort.

Posted from Las Vegas, Nevada.

Elder Maxwell on the establishment of a state (ir)religion
An important new letter from the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Canaries in the coal mine?
Does support for gay marriage bring prosperity and improve quality of life?