The Varieties of Religious Experience | Study Guide

William James

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The Varieties of Religious Experience | Key Figures

Key Figure Description
Henry Alline Henry Alline (1748–84) was an American minister, evangelist, and writer. Read More
John Bunyan John Bunyan (1628–88) was an English writer and Puritan preacher best known for writing the classic allegory called The Pilgrim's Progress. Read More
George Fox George Fox (1624–91) was the founder of the Quakers. Read More
Martin Luther Martin Luther (1483–1546) was a German priest who broke with the Catholic Church and sparked the Protestant Reformation. Read More
Saint Teresa of Ávila Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515–82) was a 16th-century Spanish nun in the Carmelite order. Read More
Walt Whitman Walt Whitman (1819–92) was an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanitarian. He is one of the most important American poets, along with Emily Dickinson, of the 19th century. Read More
Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647–90) was a French nun who had visions of Jesus and established Catholic devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Al-Ghazālī Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad Ibn Muḥammad Aṭ-ṭūsī Al-ghazālī (1058–1111) was a Sufi mystic and Muslim theologian, philosopher, and mystic in Persia (Iran).
Saint Augustine of Hippo Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430) was a North African Catholic theologian and philosopher whose writings were key in the development of Western philosophy and Western Christianity. Augustine reported three mystical experiences in his Confessions.
George Berkeley George Berkeley (1685–1753) was a Catholic bishop in Ireland and a philosopher; he was one of the three important British Empiricists, along with David Hume and John Locke. His philosophy is called Berkeleyism.
Richard Maurice Bucke Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian psychiatrist and author of Cosmic Consciousness. He had a sudden experience of union with Divinity.
Buddha Buddha (ca. 563–483 BCE), referred to in Buddhism as the Buddha and originally named Gautama Siddhartha, was an Indian philosopher and mystic who founded the religion of Buddhism. He is revered (and worshipped by some) as "the Awakened One."
Mary Baker Eddy Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910) was the American founder of the religion of Christian Science, advocating that people heal themselves by understanding God's divine laws.
Saint Catherine of Siena Saint Catherine of Siena (1347–80) was an Italian philosopher, theologian, and mystic. She experienced visions of Jesus and was declared a doctor of the Church in 1970.
Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards (1703–58) was a preacher, theologian, philosopher of American Puritanism, and a leader of the religious revival known as the Great Awakening. Edwards preached that Christians are known by their practice.
Thomas Ellwood Thomas Ellwood (1639–1713), referred to by William James as Elwood, was an early English Quaker, a religious writer, and worked as a reader for poet John Milton. He was arrested more than once for his dissenting religious practice.
Ralph Waldo Emerson Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) was an American essayist, lecturer, poet, and philosopher and a leader in the American transcendental movement.
Saint Gertrude Saint Gertrude (1256–1302) was a German nun, theologian, and mystic who had visions of Jesus.
Saint Aloysius Gonzaga Saint Aloysius Gonzaga (1568–91), referred to by William James as Saint Louis of Gonzaga, was an Italian Jesuit; James upholds him as an example of excessive devotion to purity and asceticism.
Jesus Christ Jesus Christ (ca. 6 BCE–30 CE) was a Jewish teacher who revealed himself as the Messiah; his followers founded Christianity, which teaches that Jesus is the Son of God.
Saint Ignatius Loyola Saint Ignatius Loyola (1491–1556) was a Spanish priest, theologian, and mystic who founded the Jesuit order. He conceived the Spiritual Exercises to facilitate ecstatic experiences.
Saint John of the Cross Saint John of the Cross (1542–91) was a Spanish monk, priest, and mystic who worked with Saint Teresa of Ávila to reform the Carmelite order. He was imprisoned at one point and wrote the great mystical poem, Dark Night of the Soul.
Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) was a German philosopher and a great thinker of the Enlightenment period who sought to rescue philosophy from the radical empiricism of David Hume.
Muhammad Muhammad (ca. 570–632), referred to in Islam as the Prophet, was the Saudi Arabian founder of Islam.
Miguel de Molinos Miguel de Molinos (1628–96) was a Spanish priest and mystic and the founder of Quietism.
George Müller George Müller (1805–98) was a Christian evangelist and the director of the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England.
Frederic W.H. Myers Frederic W.H. Myers (1843–1901) was a British poet and philologist and the founder of the Society for Psychical Research.
Friedrich Nietzsche Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher whose ideas influenced modern Western philosophy, psychology, religion, and the arts.
Charles Sanders Peirce Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) was an American philosopher and mathematician and the founder of the school of Pragmatism.
Plato Plato (ca. 428– ca. 348 BCE) is the Greek philosopher, along with Aristotle, who laid the foundation for the Western philosophical tradition. He founded the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the West.
Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804–69) was a French literary critic and historian.
Edwin Diller Starbuck Edwin Diller Starbuck (1866–1947) was an author, teacher, and professor of education who studied the psychology of religion.
Henry Suso Henry Suso (ca. 1295–1366) was a German Dominican monk and mystic who practiced extreme asceticism.
John Addington Symonds John Addington Symonds (1840–93) was an English poet and literary critic who induced mystical experiences with the help of chloroform.
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836–86) was an Indian yogi and mystic who preached that all religions were the revelation of God.
Baruch Spinoza Baruch Spinoza (1632–77) was a Dutch philosopher; he was raised as a Jew but ran into trouble with the authorities for his unorthodox views about religion. James quotes Spinoza as an example of healthy-mindedness.
Leo Tolstoy Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) was one of the greatest 19th-century Russian novelists; he was also a mystic who inadvertently inspired the Tolstoyan movement—groups of people who sought to follow his philosophy as expressed in his nonfiction writing. James discusses his religious crisis.
Swami Vivekananda Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902) was an Indian monk and follower of Vedanta philosophy and Yoga who came to the United States in 1893 to propagate Indian spirituality in the West. He was also the chief disciple of Sri Ramakrishna.
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