First published in 1905, The Varieties of Religious Experience is a collection of lectures given at the University of Edinburgh in 1901 and 1902. William James was a psychologist and, as such, his interest in religion was not that of a theologian but of a scientist. In these 20 lectures, he discusses the nature and origin of religious belief.
The average believer is one who has inherited his religion, but this will not do for James's inquiry. He must find those believers who have a voracious religious faith because these people have also often experienced a number of peculiar psychological episodes, including having visions, hearing voices, and falling into trances.
Students of psychology and those interested in the mental process of belief will find these lectures informative.
Public Domain (P)2011 Tantor
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"God **ahem** bless William James."
The amazing thing about James is he can write with precision and humility about something so completely intrinsic and fraught with pit falls. Most writers run at the subject with some large bias of the mystical, the . You have thousand of books written every year proclaiming their strain of Christianity, Judaism, Vegetarianism, Atheism, Mormonism, Buddhism, as being the only true and living way to view the divine AND the only mirror to view and judge ourselves. James is different. He artfully and carefully presents a measured approach to religion. He picks it apart with affection. He looks at it normatively and then he tries to look at each speck and piece through a value lens.
I believe the magic of this book is James isn't selling a belief. He isn't pimping a lifestyle. He is just curious and very very smart. And it isn't a clinical curiosity either (although his precision could be called clinical). It is a joyful curiosity. A drive to discover how we work and what really makes us tick. He wants to know and explain his hypothesis. God **ahem** bless William James. He wasn't just describing the transcendental condition of mankind, he was establishing and building a framework for others to follow for over 100 years.
"Dense & Insightful"
This series of lectures in the parlance of today can really be called, "Varieties of Spiritual Experiences". James' use of language is very stilted and formal by today's standard. This distracted from my listening as James seems to get lost in language and verbosity. I found myself often saying, " simplify, please get to the point". This being said, it is a deep, expressive and thoughtful book, by a sincere and sensitive man of deep intellect. A pedagogue at heart, his desire to take the reader/listener thru his thought process and personal seeking is sincere and enlightening.
John Pruden's reading is superb and showed his interest in James' work and never once did I get the feeling he was slogging thru a performance. Kudos to him.
This is not a one time book to listen to (or read) but to be reviewed and thought about over time with several (and patient) reviews. One's spiritual insight will be well rewarded.
"Too dense and complex"
It has been very hard to listen to this (long) book until the end. It requires a quite advanced understanding of philosophy already (which I was not familiar with, unfortunately).
Additionally, the collection of these religious experiences was boring to listen to at time (too often it was the same experience again and again).
The book might be interesting for scholars, but it is definitely too high level for the average reader I think I am!
"Difficult as a classic"
The narrator has done a fairly good job, but the problems lie in the contents, a more than hundred years ago materials and English is not like today's American English , it makes the whole listening very strenuous. The contents need more time to digest and savour than normal speed can allow. Even ,for me, half the normal speed may not allow enough space to think deep. Audible.com has to figure out ways to improve the listen-ability of classic materials.
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