Although I have been preoccupied with the problem of religious experience for some time, the decision to write this particular book emerged in the wake of the Evolution of Religion Conference held in Hawaii in January 2007, where I was asked to give one of the plenary addresses. I am grateful to Joseph Bulbulia, Armin Geertz, and the other members of the organizing committee for providing an occasion for articulating my thoughts about studying “religious experience.” I am also grateful to colleagues who provided important feedback on early drafts of chapters, including Tom Tweed and Ilkka Pyysiäinen on chapter 1, Robert Sharf on chapter 2, and Wayne Proudfoot and William Barnard on chapter 3. During Winter Quarter 2008, the students in my doctoral seminar— Robert Borneman, Jared Lindahl, Andrew Mansfield, Andrea Neuhoff, Albert Silva, and Kristy Slominski—hammered away at the first draft of the manuscript, especially the first chapter. Their feedback was invaluable and much of it has been incorporated in the final revision. In the Spring Quarter, Todd Foose and Brian Zeiden, my teaching assistants for an undergraduate course in psychology and religion, went over much of the material with me in another format. I am grateful to Melinda Pitarre for assistance in the coding of the personal narratives in chapter 3 and with the bibliography. Bill Christian, visiting professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, during Spring Quarter, enthusiastically plied me with examples of “singularization” and “special things,” and a conference on Religious Ritual, Cognition, and Culture at the University of Aarhus in May 2008 provided the occasion for further testing and revision of these ideas.
Special thanks are due to Fred Appel, my editor at Princeton University Press, and my husband, Ray Paloutzian, both of whom have read, edited, and commented on numerous drafts of every chapter. Fred, as the Press's senior editor for religion, music, and anthropology, made sure that the book was intelligible to humanists, while Ray, as a psychologist and a journal editor, did the same for the scientists. As an editorial tag team that saw eye to eye on questions of style, their concerted efforts made this a vastly more readable book. Several colleagues also read the whole manuscript and provided detailed feedback, including Catherine L. Albanese, my department chair, and two readers for Princeton University Press, one of whom was Tanya Luhrmann. Their suggestions, which I have done my best to incorporate in the final draft, polished it yet further. I would also like to thank my production editor, Heath Renfroe, and copyeditor,