The Varieties of Religious Experience

The Varieties of Religious Experience

A Study in Human Nature

Book - 1982
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William James believed that individual religious experiences, rather than the precepts of organized religions, were the backbone of the world's religious life. His discussions of conversion, repentance, mysticism and saintliness, and his observations on actual, personal religious experiences -- all support this thesis. In his introduction, Martin E. Marty discusses how James' pluralistic view of religion led to his remarkable tolerance of extreme forms of religious behaviour, his challenging, highly original theories, and his welcome lack of pretension in all of his observations one the individual and the divine.
Publisher: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England ; New York, New York : Penguin Books, [1982]
ISBN: 9780140390346
Characteristics: xlii, 534 pages : portrait ; 20 cm
Additional Contributors: Marty, Martin E. 1928-
Alternative Title: Study in human nature


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Aug 02, 2018

Exceptional, timeless lectures given in 1902 at the University of Edinburgh by the brilliant psychologist, moralist and philosopher William James on the topic of religion as individually, personally experienced, intentionally leaving aside the study or analysis of organized religion.
Notable for me:

Lecture III on Reality of the Unseen, "The sense of God, when experienced by people, is as convincing as any direct sensory experience, and far more convincing and compelling than mere logic. If you have them, you can hardly resist them as genuine perceptions of truth. 'Instinct leads; intelligence does but follow.'"

Lectures XI-XIII on Saintliness, "The transition from tenseness, self-responsibility, and worry, to equanimity, receptivity, and peace, is the most wonderful of all those shiftings of inner equilibrium, those changes of the personal centre of energy, which I have analyzed so often; and the chief wonder of it is that it so often comes about, not by doing, but by simply relaxing and throwing the burden down ."

Lectures XIV and XV on The Value of Saintliness (among the best lectures of all!), "The basenesses so commonly charged to religion's account are thus, almost all of them, not chargeable at all to religion proper, but rather to religion's wicked practical partner, the spirit of corporate [organized] dominion. And the bigotries are most of them in their turn chargeable to religion's wicked intellectual partner, the spirit of dogmatic dominion, the passion for laying down the law in the form of an absolutely closed in-theoretic system."

...and "The saints, with their extravagance of human tenderness, are the great torch-bearers of this belief [of the essential sacredness of every person], the tip of the wedge, the clearers of the darkness. Like the single drops which sparkle in the sun as they are flung far ahead of the advancing edge of a wave-crest or of a flood, they show the way and are forerunners. The world is not yet with them, so they often seem in the midst of the world's affairs to be preposterous. Yet they are impregnators of the world, vivifiers and animators of potentialities of goodness which, but for them, would like forever dormant."

Also the commentaries at the end on James by Thomas Flournoy and Josiah Royce are well worth the read.

May 09, 2012

thank you


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