The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (Google eBook)

Front Cover
The Modern library, 1902 - Philosophy - 526 pages
18 Reviews
"The Varieties of Religious Experienceis 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 inPsychology 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."
  

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Review: The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (Bedford Series in History & Culture)

User Review  - Dan Ruprecht - Goodreads

Separates value judgements from existential (scientific) judgements. Religion, he was concerned, was not being studied in a scientific way because of scientists' tendency to make a value judgement ... Read full review

Review: The Varieties of Religious Experience (Bedford Series in History & Culture)

User Review  - Douglas - Goodreads

Rarely do I read a book a second time, but this is now the third time I've read this one, and it's still fresh and relevant. Read full review

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Page 75 - Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.
Page 137 - For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward ; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished ; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
Page 185 - Such a nation might truly say to corruption, thou art my father, and to the worm, thou art my mother and my sister.
Page 31 - Religion, therefore, as I now ask you arbitrarily to take it, shall mean for us 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.
Page 85 - I stand and look at them long and long. They do not sweat and whine about their condition, They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins...
Page 158 - After this the universe was changed for me altogether. I awoke morning after morning with a horrible dread at the pit of my stomach, and with a sense of the insecurity of life that I never knew before, and that I have never felt since. It was like a revelation; and although the immediate feelings passed away, the experience has made me sympathetic with the morbid feelings of others ever since. It gradually faded, but for months I was unable to go out into the dark alone.
Page 137 - Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun : but if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all ; yet let him remember the days of darkness ; for they shall be many.
Page 186 - To be converted, to be regenerated, to receive grace, to experience religion, to' gain an assurance, are so many phrases which denote the process, gradual or sudden, by which a self hitherto divided, and consciously wrong, inferior and unhappy, becomes unified and consciously right, superior and happy, in consequence of its firmer hold upon religious realities.
Page 136 - Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do : and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and th-ere was no profit under the sun, What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
Page 164 - Our young people are diseased with the theological problems of original sin, origin of evil, predestination, and the like. These never presented a practical difficulty to any man, never darkened across any man's road, who did not go out of his way to seek them. These are the soul's mumps and measles, and whoopingcoughs, and those who have not caught them, cannot describe their health or prescribe the cure. A simple mind will not know these enemies.

About the author (1902)

William James, oldest of five children (including Henry James and Alice James) in the extraordinary James family, was born in New York City on January 11, 1842. He has had a far-reaching influence on writers and thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Broadly educated by private tutors and through European travel, James initially studied painting. During the Civil War, however, he turned to medicine and physiology, attended Harvard medical school, and became interested in the workings of the mind. His text, The Principles of Psychology (1890), presents psychology as a science rather than a philosophy and emphasizes the connection between the mind and the body. James believed in free will and the power of the mind to affect events and determine the future. In The Will to Believe (1897) and The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), he explores metaphysical concepts and mystical experiences. He saw truth not as absolute but as relative, depending on the given situation and the forces at work in it. He believed that the universe was not static and orderly but ever-changing and chaotic. His most important work, Pragmatism (1907), examines the practical consequences of behavior and rejects the idealist philosophy of the transcendentalists. This philosophy seems to reinforce the tenets of social Darwinism and the idea of financial success as the justification of the means in a materialistic society; nevertheless, James strove to demonstrate the practical value of ethical behavior. Overall, James's lifelong concern with what he called the "stream of thought" or "stream of consciousness" changed the way writers conceptualize characters and present the relationship between humans, society, and the natural world. He died due to heart failure on August 26, 1910.

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