The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature
By William James
Why this book?
The most famous work by the great American philosopher and psychologist, The Varieties of Religious Experience is anything but a dry chronicle or an exercise in religious propaganda. It’s more a record of a personal intellectual exploration. Though an agnostic himself, James asks us to clear away any preconceptions, favorable or critical, about religion to ponder the link between faith and strength of mind, faith as a critique of modern materialism and a release from egotism, the challenging history of mysticism, and the likelihood that human concepts of God necessarily and rightly evolve over time. Almost disdainful of dogma or institutions or arguments to “prove” the existence of God, James has a different concern. He’s interested in what he calls “prayerful consciousness” as the key to the compassion and heightened awareness that a true, generous faith might inspire. This is a book that can press “Pause” on a lot of easy stereotypes and prejudices about religion. It meant the world to Dorothy Day.
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