The greatest contribution of America to religious discussion in recent years is surely William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902. The book is unreservedly acknowledged in Britain, and in Germany as well, to be the best which we yet have upon the psychology of religion. Not only so, it gives a new intimation as to what psychology of religion means. It blazes a path along which investigators are eagerly following. Boyce, in his Phi Beta Kappa address at Harvard in 1911, declared James to be the third representative philosopher whom America has produced. He had the form of philosophy as Emerson never had. He could realise whither he was going, as Emerson in his intuitiveness never did. He criticised the dominant monism in most pregnant way. He recurred to the problems which dualism owned but could not solve. We cannot call the new scheme dualism. The world does not go back. Yet James made an over-confident generation feel that the centuries to which dualism had seemed reasonable were not so completely without intelligence as has been supposed by some. No philosophy may claim completeness as an interpretation of the universe. No more conclusive proof of this judgment could be asked than is given quite unintentionally in Haeckel’s Weltrathsel.
At no point is this recall more earnest than in James’s dealing with the antithesis of good and evil. The reaction of the mind of the race, and primarily of individuals, upon the fact of evil, men’s consciousness of evil in themselves, their desire to be rid of it, their belief that there is a deliverance from it and that they have found that deliverance, is for James the point of departure for the study of the actual phenomena and the active principle of religion. The truest psychological and philosophical instinct of the ago thus sets the experience of conversion in the centre of discussion. Apparently most men have, at some time and in some way, the consciousness of a capacity for God which is unfulfilled, of a relation to God unrealised, which is broken and resumed, or yet to be resumed. They have the sense that their own effort must contribute to this recovery. They have the sense also that something without themselves empowers them to attempt this recovery and to persevere in the attempt. The psychology of religion is