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The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature Hardcover – 1902


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 534 pages
  • Publisher: Longmans, Green and Co.; Ist edition (1902)
  • ASIN: B0013UOIMM
  • Product Dimensions: 18 x 12.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,661,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion Delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902

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IT is with no small amount of trepidation that I take my place behind this desk, and face this learned audience. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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85 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Peter Reeve VINE VOICE on 7 Jun. 2003
Format: Paperback
A hundred years after its first publication, James' "Varieties of Religious Experience" is still probably the best place to start a study of the psychology of religion. Based on lectures delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-2, it is supplemented with an astonishing wealth of extracts from religious writings. Although understandably biased toward Western, specifically Christian traditions, it is breathtaking in its scope. Nowhere else will you find such a wide ranging and thorough survey of all those experiences and attitudes - mystical, emotional, ethical, visionary - that we term 'religious'. You will never get around to reading all of the authors quoted in this book, so this is the place to sample them.
Some readers will approach this work as believers seeking clarification, others as sceptics seeking to understand. Their viewpoint may be philosophical or theological or psychological. All will be rewarded. Critics voted this among the best 100 books of the twentieth century. If you want insight into humanity's religious dimension, it should be your number one choice.
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 Sept. 2001
Format: Paperback
Don't let the title of this serious looking book put you off- this book could change your life. William James is a hypnotic writer, his thought-provoking words truly enter the heart and soul of the reader. His psychological descriptions of events such as an alcoholic's 'moment of clarity' are truly poignant without sentimentality. James does not force the reader to chose between the religious or psychological explanations for the mysteries of life, but simply explains how our experiences shape our views. Essential reading for the thinker - this book will stay with you forever.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael on 24 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
It is often said of classics that one is meant to know about but not actually read them. How many believers in evolution have actually waded through Darwin's dry tome? Well, this book is certainly an exception to that rule, and will leave most readers with changed views both on what religion really means as well as its significance to the individual. I'd seen the book quoted so many times by other authors that finally I decided to see what it was all about, and I'm glad I did. The many quotes I'd read from the book at various times were no substitite for the real thing. Don't be put off by what may appear from the outside as one of those dry comparative religion books. This is not about ecclesiastics, ceremonials, or creeds, but focuses on the common religious experience underlying mankind's various religions and philosophies. It shows that the religious experience and its effect on the individual is a process not limited to any religion or belief, but a phenomenon underlying the human experience. As it is such a powerful personal experience, it has led to the formation of many religions, but these have generally had the effect of stifling spiritual growth. No-one has a monopoly on spirituality, however much some religions try to promote such a misconception.

Interesting is his distinction between 'once-born' and 'twice-born' people (not to be confused with the Christian concept of 'born-again' - not all born-again Christians are twice-born, while not all twice-borns are born-again Christians, which for many just means an acceptance of the Christian creeds, a belief that Christ died for one's salvation).
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 21 May 2003
Format: Paperback
This remarkable work remains one of the most influential books on the interface of psychology and spirituality. The style is accessible and consistently interesting with well-reasoned arguments. Religions are not compared; the study is restricted to the experiences of the individual. The field of study is clearly defined and circumscribed. Chapter titles include Religion & Neurology, the Reality of the Unseen, the Religion of Healthy-Mindedness, the Sick Soul, the Divided Self & the Process of Unification, Conversion, Saintliness, Mysticism and Philosophy.

James considers the feelings, actions and experiences of individuals, insofar as they understand themselves to be in a relationship with whatever they consider the Divine. It thus deals with the spirituality of everyday life and has nothing to do with churches, doctrine or dogma. This is similar to what emerges when Geza Vermes explores the Authentic Gospel of Jesus; there's very little on doctrine but much about attitudes, relationships and behavior towards others.

Dealing objectively with a wide spectrum of observed and personally related religious experiences, James quotes from the autobiographical writings of famous authors, theologians and mystics from many traditions including Whitman, Luther, Voltaire, Emerson and Tolstoy. He mentions the importance of the passionate side of religion and its power of adding enchantment to life.
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