Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2020 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming

James, William, and the Psychology of Religious Experience

  • Eunil David Cho
  • John R. SnareyEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24348-7_200206


Psychologist-philosopher William James (1842–1910) was a prolific author whose work is widely read by both psychologists and scholars of religion. To psychologists, his two-volume The Principles of Psychology (1890) is his major work, but to religious studies scholars, The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (1902) is most significant. Not surprisingly, religious studies scholars seldom study The Principles and psychologists seldom study The Varieties. This makes it difficult for both to see that James’s psychological principles provide the foundation of his psychology of religion. Yet, the connections are invisible for another reason – the style and purpose of the two texts. The Principles is fundamentally James’s encyclopedic textbook and, thus, conventional, academic, and explicitly pedagogical, whereas The Varietiesis fundamentally James’s artful masterpiece and, therefore, unconventional, popular, and implicitly enlightening. Even those...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate Division of Religion (GDR)Emory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.School of Theology and Department of PsychologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA