Observations on George Fox: The Varieties of Religious Experience #1


William_James  George_Fox

In the Varieties of Religious Experience, the philosopher and psychologist William James focuses on those intense, personal experiences that he sees as the core of all faiths, eschewing the creeds and theology that usually dominate comparative studies of religion.  Quakers will find this approach congenial, and indeed, James expresses admiration for our religious society.  Among the many first hand accounts that he quotes in these lectures are three extended passages from the Journal of George Fox. I have collected these here, along with James’s observations, not as a summary of the book, but as a slice of particular interest to Friends.

The first is from the opening lecture, on “Religion and Neurology”.

[pg. 6-8]

There can be no doubt that as a matter of fact a religious life, exclusively pursued, does tend to make the person exceptional and eccentric.  … [They have] presented all sorts of peculiarities which…

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