The spontaneous spirit

A genuine first-hand religious experience . . . is bound to be a heterodoxy to its witnesses, the prophet appearing as a mere lonely madman. If his doctrine prove contagious enough to spread to any others, it becomes a definite and labeled heresy. But if it then still prove contagious enough to triumph over persecution, it becomes itself an orthodoxy; and when a religion has become an orthodoxy, its day of inwardness is over: the spring is dry; the faithful live at second-hand exclusively and stone the prophets in their turn. The new church, in spite of whatever human goodness it my foster, can be henceforth counted on as a staunch ally in every attempt to stifle the spontaneous spirit, and to stop all later bubblings of the fountain from which, in purer days, it drew its own supply of inspiration.

— William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience

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