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The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902)

by William James

Other authors: Robert H. Abzug (Introduction)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Gifford Lectures (1900-1902)

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4,237271,935 (3.88)71
American pastoral counseling movement, and beyond its role in spawning the psychology of religion, it remains a book that empowers individuals and inspires readers with erudition, insight, and kindness. No discussion of current religion - from the fundamentalist revival to the New Age movement - is complete without an appreciation of this groundbreaking work.… (more)

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» See also 71 mentions

English (25)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
This is a classic text intersecting religion and psychology and what I found most intriguing was the relevance of James's insights on religion that still resonate today. Debates in the merit, barbarity, utility, and experience of religion are all addressed. In this way I believe it could be a helpful resource to depolarize what I find is a dead-end debate between fundamentalist atheists and fundamentalists Christians because both points of view are seriously engaged without the assertion of a big T truth.
  b.masonjudy | Apr 3, 2020 |
Early qualitative research. Appreciate the pragmatism of approach/philosophy. ( )
  maryroberta | Apr 8, 2019 |
Understanding Religious Experiences
This book contains lectures given by William James in Scotland in which he examines diverse religious experiences in search of their meaning. The lectures formed a systematic work and are written in a clear way. James’s conception of pragmatism - the emphasis in the experimental method and the idea of meaning that dismiss hard/dogmatic truth - influences the exposition. The lectures deal with many personal expositions of religious experiences - the ways in which they are exposed and their meanings for each and everyone involved. James gives his analysis of these various episodes and tries to elaborate a grand narrative. In search of understanding, one finds tolerance toward the diverse religious attitudes. A book worth reading (listening). ( )
  MarcusBastos | Feb 5, 2019 |
James' atheistic arrogance and sarcasm drip through almost every page. This pretentious and deceitful pseudo-enlightenment of our privileged class is appalling and leads us to the effete socialism of Greece, Italy, France, Spain, etc. ( )
1 vote eschator83 | Apr 11, 2017 |
I'm tempted to say that William James was a better writer than his brother Henry, but I suppose the comparison isn't fair since they worked in such completely different fields. Nevertheless, this is THE classic work on the psychology of religion, as James mines hundreds of narrative accounts of religious experience to explain phenomena such as conversion, mysticism, and asceticism. James sets it as his task to evaluate whether religion is good as a social force (bracketing theology altogether), and concludes that it is indeed, though with some important caveats. This is a challenging book for religious and non-religious readers alike. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abzug, Robert H.Introductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barzun, JacquesForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Niebuhr, ReinholdIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nock, Arthur DarbyForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book would never have been written had I not been honored with an appointment as Gifford Lecturer on Natural Religion at the University of Edinburgh.
It is with no small amount of trepidation that I take my place behind this desk, and face this learned audience. To us Americans, the experience of receiving instruction from the living voice, as well as from the books, of European scholars, is very familiar. At my own University of Harvard, not a winter passes without its harvest, large or small, of lectures from Scottish, English, French, or German representatives of the science or literature of their respective countries whom we have either induced to cross the ocean to address us, or captured on the wing as they were visiting our land. It seems the natural thing for us to listen whilst the Europeans talk. The contrary habit, of talking whilst the Europeans listen, we have not yet acquired; and in him who first makes the adventure it begets a certain sense of apology being due for so presumptuous an act. Particularly must this be the case on a soil as sacred to the American imagination as that of Edinburgh. The glories of the philosophic chair of this university were deeply impressed on my imagination in boyhood. Professor Fraser’s Essays in Philosophy, then just published, was the first philosophic book I ever looked into, and I well remember the awestruck feeling I received from the account of Sir William Hamilton’s classroom therein contained. Hamilton’s own lectures were the first philosophic writings I ever forced myself to study, and after that I was immersed in Dugald Stewart and Thomas Brown. Such juvenile emotions of reverence never get outgrown; and I confess that to find my humble self promoted from my native wilderness to be actually for the time an official here, and transmuted into a colleague of these illustrious names, carries with it a sense of dreamland quite as much as of reality.
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This is (famously) by the same author as Principles of Psychology, The Will to Believe, Essays in Radical Empiricism, etc.
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