Varieties of Religious Experience

ISBN-10: 0743257871
ISBN-13: 9780743257879
Edition: 2004
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Description: The culmination of William James' interest in the psychology of religion,The Varieties of Religious Experienceapproached the study of religious phenomena in a new way -- through pragmatism and experimental psychology. The most important effect of  More...

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Book details

List price: $17.00
Copyright year: 2004
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication date: 5/1/2004
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 416
Size: 5.25" wide x 8.25" long x 1.25" tall
Weight: 1.034
Language: English

The culmination of William James' interest in the psychology of religion,The Varieties of Religious Experienceapproached the study of religious phenomena in a new way -- through pragmatism and experimental psychology. The most important effect of the publication of the Varieties was to shift the emphasis in this field of study from the dogmas and external forms of religion to the unique mental states associated with it. Explaining the book's intentions in a letter to a friend, James stated: "The problem I have set myself is a hard one: first, to defend...'experience' against 'philosophy' as being the real backbone of the world's religious life...and second, to make the hearer or reader believe what I myself invincibly do believe, that, although all the special manifestations of religion may have been absurd (I mean its creeds and theories), yet the life of it as a whole is mankind's most important function." Drawing evidence from his own experience and from such diverse thinkers as Voltaire, Whitman, Emerson, Luther, Tolstoy, John Bunyan, and Jonathan Edwards,The Varieties of Religious Experienceremains one of the most influential books ever written on the psychology of religion.

William James, oldest of five children (including Henry James and Alice James) in the extraordinary James family, was born in New York City on January 11, 1842. He has had a far-reaching influence on writers and thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Broadly educated by private tutors and through European travel, James initially studied painting. During the Civil War, however, he turned to medicine and physiology, attended Harvard medical school, and became interested in the workings of the mind. His text, The Principles of Psychology (1890), presents psychology as a science rather than a philosophy and emphasizes the connection between the mind and the body. James believed in free will and the power of the mind to affect events and determine the future. In The Will to Believe (1897) and The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), he explores metaphysical concepts and mystical experiences. He saw truth not as absolute but as relative, depending on the given situation and the forces at work in it. He believed that the universe was not static and orderly but ever-changing and chaotic. His most important work, Pragmatism (1907), examines the practical consequences of behavior and rejects the idealist philosophy of the transcendentalists. This philosophy seems to reinforce the tenets of social Darwinism and the idea of financial success as the justification of the means in a materialistic society; nevertheless, James strove to demonstrate the practical value of ethical behavior. Overall, James's lifelong concern with what he called the "stream of thought" or "stream of consciousness" changed the way writers conceptualize characters and present the relationship between humans, society, and the natural world. He died due to heart failure on August 26, 1910.

Walter Lippmann once called Reinhold Niebuhr the greatest mind America had produced since Jonathan Edwards. It was fitting, then, that Niebuhr died at home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in the town where Edwards had preached. He was born in Wright City, Missouri, and his father was a German immigrant who served those German-speaking churches that preserved both the Lutheran and Reformed (Calvinist) traditions and piety. After seminary in St. Louis, he studied for two years at Yale University, and the M.A. he received there was the highest degree he earned. Rather than work for a doctorate, he became a pastor in Detroit, where in his 13 years of service a tiny congregation grew to one of 800 members. Part of his diary from those years was published in 1929 as Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic. During that time he began to attract attention through articles on social issues; as he said, he "cut [his] eyeteeth fighting [Henry] Ford." But the socialism to which he was attracted soon seemed naive to him: human problems could not be solved just by appealing to the good in people or by promulgating programs for change. Power, economic clout, was needed to change the systems set up by sinful groups, a position expressed in his 1932 book, Moral Man and Immoral Society. By this time Niebuhr was teaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he spent the rest of his career. Niebuhr's theology always took second place to ethics. He ran for office as a socialist, rescued Paul Tillich from Germany, became a strong supporter of Israel, gave up pacifism, and was often too orthodox for the liberals, too liberal for the orthodox. His The Nature and Destiny of Man is one of the few seminal theological books written by an American. In it he reiterates a theme that led some to place him in the Barthian camp of Neo-orthodoxy: the radical sinfulness of the human creature. The human condition as illumined by the Christian tradition was always the arena in which he worked.

Introduction
Author's Preface
Religion and Neurology
Introduction: the course is not anthropological, but deals with personal documents
Questions of fact and questions of value
In point of fact, the religious are often neurotic
Criticism of medical materialism, which condemns religion on that account
Theory that religion has a sexual origin refuted
All states of mind are neurally conditioned
Their significance must be tested not by their origin but by the value of their fruits
Three criteria of value; origin useless as a criterion
Advantages of the psychopathic temperament when a superior intellect goes with it
Especially for the religious life
Circumscription of the Topic
Futility of simple definitions of religion
No one specific "religious sentiment"
Institutional and personal religion
We confine ourselves to the personal branch
Definition of religion for the purpose of these lectures
Meaning of the term "divine"
The divine is what prompts solemn reactions
Impossible to make our definitions sharp
We must study the more extreme cases
Two ways of accepting the universe
Religion is more enthusiastic than philosophy
Its characteristic is enthusiasm in solemn emotion
Its ability to overcome unhappiness
Need of such a faculty from the biological point of view
The Reality of the Unseen
Percepts versus abstract concepts
Influence of the latter on belief
Kant's theological Ideas
We have a sense of reality other than that given by the special senses
Examples of "sense of presence"
The feeling of unreality
Sense of a divine presence: examples
Mystical experiences: examples
Other cases of sense of God's presence
Convincingness of unreasoned experience
Inferiority of rationalism in establishing belief
Either enthusiasm or solemnity may preponderate in the religious attitude of individuals
The Religion of Healthy-Mindedness
Happiness is man's chief concern
"Once-born" and "twice-born" characters
Walt Whitman
Mixed nature of Greek feeling
Systematic healthy-mindedness
Its reasonableness
Liberal Christianity shows it
Optimism as encouraged by Popular Science
The "Mind-cure" movement
Its creed
Cases
Its doctrine of evil
Its analogy to Lutheran theology
Salvation by relaxation
Its methods: suggestion
Meditation
"Recollection"
Verification
Diversity of possible schemes of adaptation to the universe
Two mind-cure cases
The Sick Soul
Healthy-mindedness and repentance
Essential pluralism of the healthy-minded philosophy
Morbid-mindedness: its two degrees
The pain-threshold varies in individuals
Insecurity of natural goods
Failure, or vain success of every life
Pessimism of all pure naturalism
Hopelessness of Greek and Roman view
Pathological unhappiness
"Anhedonia"
Querulous melancholy
Vital zest is a pure gift
Loss of it makes physical world look different
Tolstoy
Bunyan
Alline
Morbid fear
Such cases need a supernatural religion for relief
Antagonism of healthy-mindedness and morbidness
The problem of evil cannot be escaped
The Divided Self, and the Process of Its Unification
Heterogeneous personality
Character gradually attains unity
Examples of divided self
The unity attained need not be religious
"Counter conversion" cases
Other cases
Gradual and sudden unification
Tolstoy's recovery
Bunyan's
Conversion
Case of Stephen Bradley
The psychology of character-changes
Emotional excitements make new centres of personal energy
Schematic ways of representing this
Starbuck likens conversion to normal moral ripening
Leuba's ideas
Seemingly unconvertible persons
Two types of conversion
Subconscious incubation of motives
Self-surrender
Its importance in religious history
Cases
Conversion--Concluded
Cases of sudden conversion
Is suddenness essential?
No, it depends on psychological idiosyncrasy
Proved existence of transmarginal, or subliminal, consciousness
"Automatisms"
Instantaneous conversions seem due to the possession of an active subconscious self by the subject
The value of conversion depends not on the process, but on the fruits
These are not superior in sudden conversion
Professor Coe's views
Sanctification as a result
Our psychological account does not exclude direct presence of the Deity
Sense of higher control
Relations of the emotional "faith-state" to intellectual beliefs
Leuba quoted
Characteristics of the faith-state: sense of truth; the world appears new
Sensory and motor automatisms
Permanency of conversions
Saintliness
Sainte-Beuve on the State of Grace
Types of character as due to the balance of impulses and inhibitions
Sovereign excitements
Irascibility
Effects of higher excitement in general
The saintly life is ruled by spiritual excitement
This may annul sensual impulses permanently
Probable subconscious influences involved
Mechanical scheme for representing permanent alteration in character
Characteristics of saintliness
Sense of reality of a higher power
Peace of mind, charity
Equanimity, fortitude, etc.
Connection of this with relaxation
Purity of life
Asceticism
Obedience
Poverty
The sentiments of democracy and of humanity
General effects of higher excitements
The Value of Saintliness
It must be tested by the human value of its fruits
The reality of the God must, however, also be judged
"Unfit" religions get eliminated by "experience"
Empiricism is not skepticism
Individual and tribal religion
Loneliness of religious originators
Corruption follows success
Extravagances
Excessive devoutness, as fanaticism
As theopathic absorption
Excessive purity
Excessive charity
The perfect man is adapted only to the perfect environment
Saints are leavens
Excesses of asceticism
Asceticism symbolically stands for the heroic life
Militarism and voluntary poverty as possible equivalents
Pros and cons of the saintly character
Saints versus "strong" men
Their social function must be considered
Abstractly the saint is the highest type, but in the present environment it may fail, so we make ourselves saints at our peril
The question of theological truth
Mysticism
Mysticism defined
Four marks of mystic states
They form a distinct region of consciousness
Examples of their lower grades
Mysticism and alcohol
"The anaesthetic revelation"
Religious mysticism
Aspects of Nature
Consciousness of God
"Cosmic consciousness"
Yoga
Buddhistic mysticism
Sufism
Christian mystics
Their sense of revelation
Tonic effects of mystic states
They describe by negatives
Sense of union with the Absolute
Mysticism and music
Three conclusions
Mystical states carry authority for him who has them
But for no one else
Nevertheless, they break down the exclusive authority of rationalistic states
They strengthen monistic and optimistic hypotheses
Philosophy
Primacy of feeling in religion, philosophy being a secondary function
Intellectualism professes to escape subjective standards in her theological constructions
"Dogmatic theology"
Criticism of its account of God's attributes
"Pragmatism" as a test of the value of conceptions
God's metaphysical attributes have no practical significance
His moral attributes are proved by bad arguments; collapse of systematic theology
Does transcendental idealism fare better? Its principles
Quotations from John Caird
They are good as restatements of religious experience, but uncoercive as reasoned proof
What philosophy can do for religion by transforming herself into "science of religions"
Other Characteristics
AEsthetic elements in religion
Contrast of Catholicism and Protestantism
Sacrifice and Confession
Prayer
Religion holds that spiritual work is really effected in prayer
Three degrees of opinion as to what is effected
First degree
Second degree
Third degree
Automatisms, their frequency among religious leaders
Jewish cases
Mohammed
Joseph Smith
Religion and the subconscious region in general
Conclusions
Summary of religious characteristics
Men's religions need not be identical
"The science of religions" can only suggest, not proclaim, a religious creed
Is religion a "survival" of primitive thought?
Modern science rules out the concept of personality
Anthropomorphism and belief in the personal characterized pre-scientific thought
Personal forces are real, in spite of this
Scientific objects are abstractions, only individualized experiences are concrete
Religion holds by the concrete
Primarily religion is a biological reaction
Its simplest terms are an uneasiness and a deliverance; description of the deliverance
Question of the reality of the higher power
The author's hypotheses
The subconscious self as intermediating between nature and the higher region
The higher region, or "God"
He produces real effects in nature
Postscript
Philosophic position of the present work defined as piecemeal supernaturalism
Criticism of universalistic supernaturalism
Different principles must occasion differences in fact
What differences in fact can God's existence occasion?
The question of immortality
Question of God's uniqueness and infinity: religious experience does not settle this question in the affirmative
The pluralistic hypothesis is more conformed to common sense
Index

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