The Varieties of Religious Experience

William James

A Study in Human Nature


LECTURE I 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.
LECTURE II 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.
LECTURE III 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.
LECTURES IV AND V 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-- APPENDIX: TWO mind-cure cases.
LECTURES VI AND VII 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.
LECTURE VIII 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.
LECTURE IX 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.
LECTURE X 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.
LECTURES XI, XII, AND XIII 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.
LECTURES XIV AND XV 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
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