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William James, Conversion and Rapid, Radical Transformation

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This essay briefly considers the psychology of radical psychological transformations, sometimes termed 'quantum change', such as religious conversions. Such transformations are the focus of two of William James's chapters in The Varieties of Religious Experience. They can occur abruptly, resulting in a restructuring of the entire personality, sometimes in the direction of greater health, or recovery from drug addiction. The author summarizes seven reported aspects of quantum change such as positive shifts of values or attitudes, widening of perspectives, and increases in self discipline.

Keywords: William James; conversion; personal transformation; quantum change; rapid psychological transformation; religious experience

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, 1069 E. Meadow Cir., Palo Alto, CA 94303, Email:

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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