The Varieties of Religious Experience

The Varieties of Religious Experience

Paperback(1st Vintage Books/The Library of America)

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Overview

The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James, Library of America Staff

Paving the way for all modern spiritual thought, The Varieties of Religious Experience was revolutionary in its view of religious life as centered not within the Church, but solely within the person. James, a vivid, subtle stylist writing for the skeptical, nonspecialist reader, was the first to define spirituality as "the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude." In this edition, scholars Taylor and Carrette bring a new understanding to James's life and his determination, in the cold, scientific face of the Industrial Revolution, to reaffirm the power of individual belief.

One hundred years after its publication James's work remains even more vital than before. Beyond its influence on the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, beyond its influence on launching the 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679724919
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/31/1990
Series: Vintage-Library of America
Edition description: 1st Vintage Books/The Library of America
Pages: 544

About the Author

WILLIAM JAMES, son of the theologian Henry James (1811-1882) and brother of the famed novelist Henry James (1843-1916), was born in New York City on Jan­uary 11,1842. Under his father's guidance, William was educated by tutors and at private schools in the United States and in Europe. He was drawn to careers both in art and in medicine, first studying art in Paris and later in Providence, Rhode Island, under the direction of William Morris Hunt. But ultimately James chose medicine; after receiving his medical degree in 1872, he accepted a post in physiology at Harvard University the following year. In 1876 he began to teach in the relatively new field of psychology and in that same year James established the first psychological laboratory in America. Among his more illustrious students was the novelist Gertrude Stein.

In 1890, James published his two-volume work, The Principles of Psychology, which summarized nearly the entire range of nineteenth-century psychology. An immediate success because of its thoroughness, accu­racy, and lively style, the book was translated into French, German, Italian, and Russian, and remained the leading text in psychology for many years.

From childhood James had been passionately inter­ested in philosophy and had joined enthusiastically with his friends in informal discussions and "metaphysical questions." The view for which James was later to become famous was formed in one such discussion group, dominated by the pragmatic philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914). But James did not turn his professional interest toward philosophy until 1897.

James published Pragmatism in 1907. He did not claim any originality for the doctrine, having borrowed even the term "pragmatism" from Peirce. But whereas Peirce had proposed only a method for avoiding ambi­guity and imprecision, James proceeded to elaborate a theory of truth. James denied absolute truth in an ever-changing universe, and regarded it as provisional rather than in accordance with absolute standards. The same analysis James had given to truth he also applied to the discussion of morality itself, arguing that absolute moral standards must give way to values that take into con­sideration the circumstances of human experience.

During James's last years. his reputation grew widely; in 1902 he published his Varieties of Religious Experience, and in 1909 A Pluralistic Universe. But it was after the publication of Pragmatism that James became generally recognized as the foremost American philosopher of his time. William James died on August 26, 1910, in Chocurua, New Hampshire.

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The Varieties of Religious Experience 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This work collects together religious experience from a wide diversity of cultures.It presents the remarkable personal transformations of a good share of mankind's most remarkable souls.One of them is James himself who recounts anonymously the story of his own depression and mental struggle.This book touches many areas of thought and study, psychology , philosophy, mystical perception, religious experience and thought .It does have its general conclusion in which James does try to summarize the twice - born experience, and the experience of one who has met God ( at least in their own perception ) and lived to tell the tale. James seems to feel that in terms of doctrinal conclusions most of the people somehow take out what they have already come in with, but in a new revived way. From the point of view of Jewish religious thought which is what I have most studied it seems to me there is a clear distinction between Jewish mystical religious encounter, and much other.And this because Jewish thinkers are very reluctant to argue that there has been a complete union with God but always tend to feel that God 's transcendent dimension remains supreme. In any case this is one of the great books of religious thought and cannot come more highly recommended.James writes very clearly with a real sense of the reader's need to understand what is being written about.My guess is that in this he worked very hard as he did in other aspects of his life to act in a way much different from that ethereal and somewhat confused and confusing Swedenborgian mystic, his father. Who reads this book not only reads a man, but reads much of what is in the religious soul and aspiration of Mankind.
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