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Varieties of Religious Experience by William James - 1912

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Original price $595
Original price $595 - Original price $595
Original price $595
Current price $295
$295 - $295
Current price $295

This is the Twenty-Second Impression of The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature by William James from January 1912. This book comes with the original dust jacket.

This is the popular book that is well known in the AA community as it was the book that Ebby T. brought to Bill W. in Towns Hospital in 1934. Bill had his spiritual experience in the hospital while reading this book. The conversion story in this book of S.H. Hadley's spiritual experience is very similar to Bill Wilson's experience in Towns Hospital. This was also the book credited with leading Rowland Hazard to his conversion experience.

There are two references to William James and The Varieties of Religious Experience in the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book:

Page 28:
"The distinguished American psychologist, William James, in his book "Varieties of Religious Experience," indicates a multitude of ways in which men have discovered God. We have no desire to convince anyone that there is only one way by which faith can be acquired."

Spiritual Experience - Appendix - Page 569:
"Among our rapidly growing membership of thousands of alcoholics such transformations, though frequent, are by no means the rule. Most of our experiences are what the psychologist William James calls the "educational variety" because they develop slowly over a period of time."

In "The Varieties of Religious Experience," William James refers to the conversion story of S. H. Hadley, a man who experienced a profound religious conversion which dramatically altered his life trajectory. Samuel H. Hadley was an alcoholic who managed to overcome his addiction through a spiritual awakening, a story which has resonated within religious and recovery communities, including those involved with organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous.

S. H. Hadley, before his conversion, was deeply addicted to alcohol and led a life that seemed beyond redemption due to his heavy drinking. His conversion occurred in the Water Street Mission run by Jerry McAuley, himself a reformed alcoholic. Hadley's transformation is described as sudden and profound, typical of the "conversion experience" narratives that William James explores in his lectures. On entering the mission, Hadley experienced an overwhelming religious feeling, leading to a lasting change in his life.

Following his conversion, Hadley dedicated himself to helping other alcoholics. He became an active Christian temperance reformer and took over the running of McAuley's Water Street Mission in New York City, where he worked to support and rehabilitate men struggling with alcoholism.

James uses Hadley’s story as a vivid illustration of his theory that religious experiences can have transformative effects, particularly in terms of personal and moral renewal. The narrative supports James's argument that genuine conversion can result in immediate and profound changes in character and behavior, which are often reflected in the convert's subsequent life choices.

Samuel H. Hadley also expanded upon his conversion story in his own book titled Down in Water Street.


"The Varieties of Religious Experience" by William James is a seminal work in the study of psychology and religion, first published in 1902. Based on a series of lectures delivered at the University of Edinburgh, this book explores the nature of religious experiences across different cultures and is considered one of the foundational texts in the field of the psychology of religion.

The book is structured as a series of lectures, each focusing on different aspects of religious experiences, including their origins, effects, and manifestations in individuals’ lives.

James, a philosopher and psychologist, delves into the psychological underpinnings of religious experiences, arguing that they are not just the result of religious indoctrination but also have profound personal and psychological significance.

The book categorizes religious experiences into various types, such as the effects of conversion, mysticism, and the relationship of religion to morality and happiness.

James supports his theories with numerous examples and case studies of individuals who have undergone profound religious experiences, highlighting their transformative power.

James’s analysis of conversion—which he describes as sudden, profound, and often life-altering—resonated with the experiences of many AA members, including Wilson, who had a transformative experience of his own. This concept influenced AA’s approach to recovery, which encourages members to seek a spiritual awakening or a "higher power".

The book’s broad and inclusive definition of religious experiences provided a foundation for AA's principle of spiritual but not religious recovery pathways. This allowed individuals of various faith backgrounds, or even those without traditional religious beliefs, to participate in AA’s program.

This book is in excellent condition. The cover and spine shows some light wear and fading. There is no other writing or markings inside the book. The dust jacket has experienced some edge wear and tears.

Please view all of the photos for conditions.