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The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (Modern Library) Hardcover – May 10, 1994
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"I am neither a theologian, nor a scholar learned in the history of religions, nor an anthropologist. Psychology is the only branch of learning in which I am particularly versed. To the psychologist the religious propensities of man must be at least as interesting as any other of the facts pertaining to his mental constitution. It would seem, therefore, as a psychologist, the natural thing for me would be to invite you to a descriptive survey of those religious propensities."
When William James went to the University of Edinburgh in 1901 to deliver a series of lectures on "natural religion," he defined religion as "the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine." Considering religion, then, not as it is defined by--or takes place in--the churches, but as it is felt in everyday life, he undertook a project that, upon completion, stands not only as one of the most important texts on psychology ever written, not only as a vitally serious contemplation of spirituality, but for many critics one of the best works of nonfiction written in the 20th century. Reading The Varieties of Religious Experience, it is easy to see why. Applying his analytic clarity to religious accounts from a variety of sources, James elaborates a pluralistic framework in which "the divine can mean no single quality, it must mean a group of qualities, by being champions of which in alternation, different men may all find worthy missions." It's an intellectual call for serious religious tolerance--indeed, respect--the vitality of which has not diminished through the subsequent decades. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'The centenary edition of Varieties can serve as a useful introduction to James's thinking about religion.' - Reviews in Religion and Theology --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The edition I am talking about in this review:
Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: Trinity Press (September 5, 2013)
Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 7.9 x 9.8 inches
Cover art: Sun on the horizon in the background with arm and hand in front of the sun in the foreground; all in sepia tones.
Here and there throughout the text there are typographical errors. The most common is that one sentence will end with a period and the next begin with no white space between. For the most part, just when this happens seems to be arbitrary. It does seem to occur consistently any time a sentence ends with a close quotation mark. These typographical errors happen so often that it became quite annoying to me.
Sometimes a period will appear somewhere in a running sentence, requiring several re-readings to untangle what is going on. Likewise, an opening or closing quotation mark will be left out in running text, again calling for multiple re-readings. For example on p.24 you find "The simplest functions of physiological life," he writes may be its ministers. Every one of who...[and on for nine more lines, until]...that promises to bear us towards it." This involves going back up ten lines to find the typographic error "The simplest functions of physiological life," he writes[, "]may be..." If this sort of thing happened a few times in the entire work, that would be one thing. Instead, these editorial errors happen so often that reading becomes a pain.
Just go on to the top of the next page (25) and find "...it makes our task difficult to have to deal so muck with..." It should read "deal so much with..."
Throughout James gives long quotations from primary sources. In this edition these long quotations are not set off in indented blocks as one would expect, but instead run as body text and are merely enclosed in quotation marks. Further, these long quotations are often run together with the resumption of the body text without starting a new paragraph. Again, this happens so often that it became quite annoying to me.
Given that this work has been continuously in print since 1902, there is no excuse for the editorial disaster of this edition. Further, there is no copyright page giving the information about this edition and the publisher. Is this even a legal edition?
I found the book itself to be quite interesting. It is a series of 20 lectures given by James at Edinburg University on the subject of Religious Experiences. James is purposely staying away from formal religious belief and focusing on personal experiences. He approaches the subject from the point of view of a psychologist.
He reviews several case studies of profound religious experiences of many people from famous `saints' to normal everyday people. He finds several things in common that he discusses. He was applying scientific methods to the study of these experiences.
This was a prelude to his book on `Pragmatism', which was highly influential in the 20th century on philosophy and religion.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in psychology and religion. I found the case studies to be very interesting and made me realize that people of all persuasions can have religious experiences that are quite similar.
The book is old but the story is always new again for each born individual. This book may have an answer for you but even if it doesn't you will gain a deep and wide appreciation for the vastness of the human psyche and its varieties of experience.