The Psychology of Religion

By George Albert Coe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
RELIGION AS AN OBJECT OF PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDY

The closing years of the nineteenth century and the opening years of the twentieth mark the beginning of a definite determination to use the resources of scientific psychology in the investigation of religion. The roots of modern science reach far into the past, of course; yet a distinctly new departure was made when systematic, empirical methods were employed in order to analyze religious conversion and thus place it within the general perspective of the natural sciences.1 Associated with the interest in conversion there quickly arose inquiry into the wider problem of mysticism.2 Coincidently with such

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1
The earliest articles bearing on this topic are as follows: G. Stanley Hall , "The Moral and Religious Training of Children and Adolescents," Pedagogical Seminary, I ( 1891), 196 ff.; A. H. Daniels, "The New Life," American Journal of Psychology, VI ( 1893), 61 ff.; J. H. Leuba, "A Study in the Psychology of Religious Phenomena,"ibid., VII ( 1896), 309 ff.; W. H. Burnham, "The Study of Adolescence," Pedagogical Seminary, I ( 1891), 2 ff; E. G. Lancaster, "Psychology and Pedagogy of Adolescence," Podagogical Seminary, V ( 1895), 1 ff; E. D. Starbuck, "A Study of Conversion," American Journal of Psychology, VIII ( 1897), 268 ff.; "Some Aspects of Religious Growth,"ibid., IX ( 1898), 70 ff. These articles were succeeded by the following volumes devoted largely or wholly to conversion and kindred phenomena: E. D. Starbuck, The Psychology of Religion ( London, 1899); G. A. Coe, The Spiritual Life ( New York, 1900); W. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience ( London, 1902).
2
Typical of this interest are: J. H. Leuba, "Tendances fondamentales des mystiques chrétiens," Revue philosophique, LIV ( 1902), 1-36 and 441-87; "On the Psychology of a Group of Christian Mystics," Mind, XIV ( 1905), 15-27; M. Delacroix, Etudes d'histoire et de psychologie du mysticisme ( Paris, 1908). James's Varieties of Religious Experience ( 1902) and J. B. Pratt's Psychology of Religious Belief ( New York, 1907) are to a considerable degree arguments for the truth of mysticism.

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