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When it was originally published in 1902, “The Varieties of Religious Experience” by William James established the first psychological analysis of religion. It paved the way for the clinical and paranormal branches of psychology created by Freud and Jung.
William James's book remains the best introduction to his pragmatic way of thinking, his almost devotional respect for discoveries of the human mind, and his unique claims upon the significance of personal experience. James's classic study is of fundamental importance not only to the awareness of religions, but to modern psychology and psychiatric medicine. Underscored with personal accounts of belief and possession, intoxication, and near-death experience, James's theories of conversion, saintliness, ecstasy, and mysticism continue to raise new questions and stir up fresh debates.
But some extreme adjustments have been made to the realm of science since then. It nowadays looks as if a groundless (and maybe financial) fear of touching the electrified “third rail” of intellectual disapproval prevents many researchers from speaking out about the varieties of unworldly experience.