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Varieties of Religious Experience Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 1997
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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.
One of the seminal works of philosophy and theology. Catholic Herald --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
James' approach to religious experience will be through the individual, rather than traditional institutionalized religion. He does get into philosophy a bit, but it is not so encumbering that the individual untrained in philosophy will have a difficult time following. That is the power of James' writing. James really has a nice flowing style of writing, his mind is obviously very organized, and he presents very structured discourse on the topics he covers. He is among the quickest reads I have encountered, yet he leaves the reader with substance to consider.
This is a book I highly recommend for the debutante, general intellectual, and for anyone interested in philosophy, religion, and psychology.
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Essential reading for people interested in the history of philosophy.Read more