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on 10 September 2001
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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on 22 July 2017
a very wide exposition of the subject
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on 9 January 2013
Once again one of the forgotten figures of 20th century . His eminence fading into the shadows of history. An author , who should be read in this day and age, to help dismantle the barriers of religious rigidity. An understanding of the fallacy , that has emerged into modern psychology, that one can be enlightened without acknowledging the reality of spirituality
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on 16 October 2013
Great book tackling the subject of Psychology of Religion. James describes how, according to him, people are emotionally predestined to be religious and what kind of religious they will be. Very interesting.
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on 24 September 2011
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). The twice-born person has gone through a period of intense spiritual suffering, their 'long dark night of the soul', and come out at the other end a new individual, with new spiritual insights and a new perspective on life and its challenges. Some born-again Christians do fit this description, but not many. One could reject one's Christianity, but one could never revert from twice to once-born.

We all know people who've never given a thought about spirituality, life or death. Generally, but not always, they are people who quickly found a comfortable place in society, and have not had a major spiritual crisis to shake them up a bit, or lack the sensibility to be affected by them when they do occur. These are the once-born individuals referred to by James. Until genuine spiritual growth occurs in such people they are likely to remain uninterested in anything but the material, or remain unthinkingly devout to the religion which they were, quite by chance, born into, and if they had to review a book like this, would be unlikely to award more than a single star.

I cannot recommend reading this book more strongly. Its one of those books that you'll never forget because in some undefinable way it leaves your a changed person. Having read many other more modern books on a similar theme, I can only say it more than favourably compares to many of them. The English is clearly early twentieth century, but still lucid and very readable, with few of the horrible literary devices with which many of the learned both then and now try to make their works more 'academic'.
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on 12 May 2016
Amazing :)
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on 31 March 2013
The sense of an unseen presence, conversion experiences, mystic visions... such things are the seeds of all religion, say James, and he surveys them here with much quoting from autobiographical literature. His standards are pragmatic, his attitude is sympathetic, his style is avuncular and his pace is (perhaps too) relaxed. If you're in a hurry you could skip to the last chapter where he summarises his findings and presents his conclusions. These range from the conservative and underwhelming to the personal, speculative and much more interesting.
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on 3 February 2015
I know I will love it!
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VINE VOICEon 7 June 2003
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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on 18 May 2016
Bought for my son who was studying Philosophy
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