What is an addict who is also an atheist, agnostic, or spiritual but not religious person to do about the advice to turn "their will and their lives over to the care of God as they understood Him"? Peg O'Connor's Higher and Friendly Powers provides an uplifting answer by taking the reader on a journey into the thinking of William James, no ordinary theist, frequently a religious skeptic, and the source of the ideas of spiritual transformation and higher power reflected in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. O'Connor's book is artful philosophy. She shows the way to freedom from addiction without requiring belief in the God or gods of any sectarian tradition. A brilliant and important book!
-- Owen Flanagan, Professor Emeritus, Duke University
With a light touch and lucid prose, Peg O'Connor finds in the writings of William James a much-needed corrective to the heavy-handed religiosity that permeates so much understanding of addiction and recovery -- in AA and elsewhere -- while yet finding room for experiences of suffering, conversion, renunciation, communion, connection, and even faith. Part philosophy and part guide to life, this eclectic and deeply humane book puts the individual psychology of addiction back where it belongs, on center stage.
-- Hanna Pickard, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University
Peg O'Connor brings together the poignant writing of philosopher and psychologist William James and her own deep insights into addiction and recovery in this joyfully readable and timely book. Using James' own case studies as an overall framework, O'Connor vividly describes the depths and shallows that sufferers of addiction may experience, and the many ways in which conversion and change can happen. This optimistic, inclusive, and gentle book provides hope and guidance toward the possibility of a greater and lasting wholeness and peace.
-- Candice Shelby, Author of Addiction: A Philosophical Perspective
Many addicts don't believe that it is necessary or possible to be saved from addiction. We are just too low, or wretched or lost to touch something "high enough" to rescue us. This is the very old problem of spiritual salvation. And so many alcoholics reject Alcoholics Anonymous because they don't believe in God. But what if our salvation turns on us simply realizing the possibilities and chances of a world that does not reject our attempts to explore it? What if these chances never forsake us even in our darkest hours? What is this is the higher and friendly power that aids in our rescue? O'Connor with the help of William James explores these questions and recasts the meaning of being saved from addiction. If you pick up this book, I promise you need to read it to the end.
-- John Kaag, Author of Sick Souls, Healthy Minds: How William James Can Save Your Life
"The Varieties of Religious Experience" represents the pinnacle of thinking of William James about why we want to live, how we accept the universe and what happens when the sick soul is ready to surrender to a higher power, especially in numerous examples of alcoholics (drunkards or dipsomaniacs). O'Connor wisely navigates a course between the William James "advocates" in academia and 12 Step "Big book thumpers," each of whom are possessive of their own intellectual history. This book will satisfy both and allow both to learn and grow.
-- Paul Schulte, Author of Cravings for Deliverance: How William James, the Father of American Psychology, Inspired Alcoholics Anonymous
"A philosophical tome of practical relevance. A rarity!"
-- Hans Durrer, author and addiction specialist