Religion and Anthropology

In his classic discussion of "the sick soul" in The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), William James observes that "philosophic theism has always shown a tendency to become pantheistic and monistic, and to consider the world as one unit of absolute fact." In contrast, popular or practical theism has "ever been more or less frankly pluralistic, not to say polytheistic, and shown itself perfectly well satisfied with a universe composed of many original principles." While James ultimately deems the divine principle supreme and the rest subordinate, his immediate sympathies lie with less absolute "practicalities," and he situates analyses of religious experience within the felt tension between theistic monism and the pluralism of actual populations.

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