The Varieties of Religious Experience

The Varieties of Religious Experience

A Study in Human Nature

Book - 1994
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Random House, Inc.
"The Varieties of Religious Experience is certainly the most notable of all books in the field of the psychology of religion and probably destined to be the most influential [one] written on religion in the twentieth century," said Walter Houston Clark in Psychology Today.  The book was an immediate bestseller upon its publication in June 1902.  Reflecting the pluralistic views of psychologist-turned-philosopher William James, it posits that individual religious experiences, rather than the tenets of organized religions, form the backbone of religious life.  James's discussion of conversion, repentance, mysticism, and hope of reward and fears of punishment in the hereafter--as well as his observations on the religious experiences of such diverse thinkers as Voltaire, Whitman, Emerson, Luther, Tolstoy, and others--all support his thesis.  "James's characteristic humor, his ability to put down the pretentious and to be unpretentious, and his willingness to take some risks in his choices of ancedotal data or provocative theories are all apparent in the book," noted Professor Martin E. Marty.  "A reader will come away with more reasons to raise new questions than to feel that old ones have been resolved."

Baker & Taylor
Presents the American philosopher and experimental psychologist's study of such spiritual phenomena as conversion, repentance, mysticism, saintliness, the hope for reward, and the fear of punishment.

Publisher: New York : Modern Library, 1994
Edition: 1994 Modern Library ed
ISBN: 9780679600756
Branch Call Number: 201 Ja
Characteristics: xxi, 582 p. ; 20 cm


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Aug 02, 2018

Exceptional, timeless lectures given in 1902 at the University of Edinburgh by the brilliant psychologist, moralist and philosopher William James on the topic of religion as individually, personally experienced, intentionally leaving aside the study or analysis of organized religion.
Notable for me:

Lecture III on Reality of the Unseen, "The sense of God, when experienced by people, is as convincing as any direct sensory experience, and far more convincing and compelling than mere logic. If you have them, you can hardly resist them as genuine perceptions of truth. 'Instinct leads; intelligence does but follow.'"

Lectures XI-XIII on Saintliness, "The transition from tenseness, self-responsibility, and worry, to equanimity, receptivity, and peace, is the most wonderful of all those shiftings of inner equilibrium, those changes of the personal centre of energy, which I have analyzed so often; and the chief wonder of it is that it so often comes about, not by doing, but by simply relaxing and throwing the burden down ."

Lectures XIV and XV on The Value of Saintliness (among the best lectures of all!), "The basenesses so commonly charged to religion's account are thus, almost all of them, not chargeable at all to religion proper, but rather to religion's wicked practical partner, the spirit of corporate [organized] dominion. And the bigotries are most of them in their turn chargeable to religion's wicked intellectual partner, the spirit of dogmatic dominion, the passion for laying down the law in the form of an absolutely closed in-theoretic system."

...and "The saints, with their extravagance of human tenderness, are the great torch-bearers of this belief [of the essential sacredness of every person], the tip of the wedge, the clearers of the darkness. Like the single drops which sparkle in the sun as they are flung far ahead of the advancing edge of a wave-crest or of a flood, they show the way and are forerunners. The world is not yet with them, so they often seem in the midst of the world's affairs to be preposterous. Yet they are impregnators of the world, vivifiers and animators of potentialities of goodness which, but for them, would like forever dormant."

Also the commentaries at the end on James by Thomas Flournoy and Josiah Royce are well worth the read.

May 09, 2012

thank you


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