William James and the role of mysticism in religion



William James, Mysticism, Philosophy, Religion, Psychology


In Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (1902) William James examines the role of mysticism in the development of religion. James argues that the root of all religions is precisely the experience of mystical states of consciousness. As we shall see, although James himself admits that his own psychological constitution shuts him out from these experiences, the acknowledgement of practical developments of mysticism within institutionalized religions illustrates the reality of these states of consciousness, a stance supported by James’ pragmatism. Thus, the paper not only examines the nature of mysticism but presents James’ pragmatist view of religion.


Não há dados estatísticos.

Biografia do Autor

Rodrigo Benevides Barbosa Gomes, Federal University of São Carlos

PhD student at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar). Substitute Professor at the Universidade Estadual Vale do Acaraú - UVA, Sobral (CE).


Blood, B. P. The Anaesthetic Revelation and the Gist of Philosophy. Franklin Classics, 2018.

Brandom, Robert B. Perspectives on Pragmatism: Classical, Recent and Contemporary. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011.

Bucke, R. M. Cosmic Consciousness: a study in the evolution of the human Mind. New York: Cosimo Classics, 2005.

Caputo, John. On Religion. New York, NY: Thinking in Action, 2001.

Cowen, P. Altered states: psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. Lancet Psychiatry 3, 592-593, 2016.

Dilthey, Wilhelm. Selected Works Vol. VI: Ethical and World-View Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019.

Elkind, David. The Origins of Religion in the Child. Review of Religious Research, vol. 12, no. 1, [Religious Research Association, Inc., Springer], 1970, pp. 35-42, https://doi.org/10.2307/3510932

Garcia-Romeu, A., Griffiths, R. R., and Johnson, M. W. Psilocybin-occasioned mystical experiences in the treatment of tobacco addiction. Curr. Drug Abuse Rev. 7, 157-164, 2014.

Griffiths R, Richards W, Johnson M, McCann U, Jesse R. Mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin mediate the attribution of personal meaning and spiritual significance 14 months later. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 22 (6): pp. 621-632, 2008.

Griffiths, R.R., Richards, W.A., McCann, U. et al. Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance. Psychopharmacology. 187, pp. 268-283, 2006.

Griffiths, R. R., Johnson, M. W., Richards, W. A., Richards, B. D., Jesse, R., MacLean, K. A., et al. Psilocybin-occasioned mystical-type experience in combination with meditation and other spiritual practices produces enduring positive changes in psychological functioning and in trait measures of prosocial attitudes and behaviors. J. Psychopharmacol. 32, pp. 49-69, 2018.

Hauser, Marc & Pyysiäinen, Ilkka. The origins of religion : evolved adaptation or by-product? Trends in Cognitive Science, Vol. 14, Issue 3 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2009.12.007

Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classic, 2008.

Heidegger, Martin. Fenomenologia da vida religiosa. Translated by Enio Paulo Giachini, Jairo Ferrandin e Renato Kirchner. Rio de Janeiro: Ed. Vozes Petrópolis, 2014.

Heidegger, Martin. Poetry, Language, Thought. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2013.

Heidegger, Martin. The Phenomenology of Religious Life. Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2010.

Heidegger, Martin. Ser e Tempo. Petrópolis, RJ: Ed. Vozes, 10ª edição, 2015.

Husserl, Edmund. Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1977.

James, Williams. The Meaning of Truth. New York: Prometheus Books, 1997.

James, Williams. Pragmatism and Other Writings. London: Penguin Books, 2000.

James, Williams. A Suggestion About Mysticism. The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, vol. 7, no. 4, Journal of Philosophy, Inc., 1910, pp. 85-92, https://doi.org/10.2307/2011271

James, Williams. Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature. London & New York: Routledge, 2002.

James, Williams. The Will to Believe, Human Immortality and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy. New York, NY: Dover Publications, 1960.

MacLean KA, Johnson MW, Griffiths RR. Mystical experiences occasioned by the hallucinogen psilocybin lead to increases in the personality domain of openness. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 25 (11): pp. 1453-1461, 2011.

Martin, Dale B. New Testament History and Literature. , New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 2012.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception. Oxfordshire: Routledge, 2013.

McGinn, B. The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism. New York: Modern Library, 2006.

Peirce, C. S. The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings Volume I (1867-1893). Indiana: Indiana University Pres s, 1992.

Peoples, H.C., Duda, P. & Marlowe, F.W. Hunter-Gatherers and the Origins of Religion. Hum Nat 27, 261-282 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-016-9260-0

Putnam, Hilary & Putnam, Ruth Anna. Pragmatism as a Way of Life: The Lasting Legacy of William James and John Dewey. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017.

Rorty, Richard. Essays on Heidegger and others: Philosophical Papers Volume 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Scheler, Max. On the Eternal in Man. London: Routledge, 2009.

Varela, Francisco; Thompson, Evan & Rosch, Eleanor. The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2017.




Como Citar

GOMES, R. B. B. . William James and the role of mysticism in religion. Manuscrito: Revista Internacional de Filosofia, Campinas, SP, v. 44, n. 4, p. 453–488, 2022. Disponível em: https://periodicos.sbu.unicamp.br/ojs/index.php/manuscrito/article/view/8668933. Acesso em: 27 set. 2022.