Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature

Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature

Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature

Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature


First published in 1902, The Varieties of Religious Experience initiated the psychological study of religion, paving the way for Freud and Jung as well as for clinical and paranormal branches of psychology. Written with humour and erudition, its theories of conversion, saintliness, ecstasy and mysticism continue to provoke controversy and inquiry. The book remains the best introduction to James's thought, demonstrating his characteristic insistence upon the importance of personal experience and his almost devotional respect for the mysteries of the human mind. Richly illustrated with personal accounts of belief and possession, intoxication and near-death experience, it is of central importance not simply to an understanding of religions, but to modern psychology and psychiatric medicine.The Routledge Centenary Edition, entirely reset from the original 1902 edition, is prefaced with a specially commissioned foreword by the author's grandson, Micky James, and with new introductions from James specialists Eugene Taylor and Jeremy Carrette. It also includes a new and expanded index.


To the Official Centenary Edition of William James’s
Varieties of Religious Experience


Micky James


My having been asked to contribute a few words to this commemorative edition of The Varieties becomes a pleasure I tackle not lightly as I, myself, am a painter, not a scholar. In such lively regard do I hold the reader who is interested in this topic that I find myself all but purified in the waters. Your hefty and devoted attention to William James—to his ideas about religious experience, of course—but also to his mind and to the man himself, as well, would surely have blushingly distracted his own. You do him enormous honor.

I never knew my grandfather, William James, born as I was in 1923, the year following his own Alice’s death, she then a widow of twelve years. I did meet his son, Alexander, who, of course, was my father, a painter, whose death brought his brothers Harry and Billy, to our New Hampshire home that February day of 1946. Though now fifty and more years later, I remember well my uncles’ sundown arrival. That morning we made my father a coffin from old pine boards. Placed in the darkening dining room, there he was when they turned up. Standing there, the three of us, and looking down on him, I heard Uncle Harry say, “He was the most like Dad.”

And so, in a curious way, I have met Gramps Willie, as we would affectionately refer to him in our middle-age, which may

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