The Varieties of Religious Experience

The Varieties of Religious Experience

A Study in Human Nature : Being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion Delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902

Book - 2002 | Modern Library paperback edition.
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time

The Varieties of Religious Experience was an immediate bestseller upon its publication in June 1902. Reflecting the pluralistic views of psychologist turned philosopher William James, it posits that individual religious experiences, rather than the tenets of organized religions, form the backbone of religious life. James's discussion of conversion, repentance, mysticism, and hope of reward and fears of punishment in the hereafter--as well as his observations on the religious experiences of such diverse thinkers as Voltaire, Emerson, Luther, and others--all support his thesis. Walter Houston Clark in Psychology Today deemed it "the most notable of all books in the field of the psychology of religion."
Publisher: New York :, Modern Library,, 2002.
Edition: Modern Library paperback edition.
Copyright Date: ©1994
ISBN: 9780679640110
Characteristics: xxii, 602 pages


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Aug 02, 2018

Exceptional, timeless lectures given in 1902 at the University of Edinburgh by the brilliant psychologist, moralist and philosopher William James on the topic of religion as individually, personally experienced, intentionally leaving aside the study or analysis of organized religion.
Notable for me:

Lecture III on Reality of the Unseen, "The sense of God, when experienced by people, is as convincing as any direct sensory experience, and far more convincing and compelling than mere logic. If you have them, you can hardly resist them as genuine perceptions of truth. 'Instinct leads; intelligence does but follow.'"

Lectures XI-XIII on Saintliness, "The transition from tenseness, self-responsibility, and worry, to equanimity, receptivity, and peace, is the most wonderful of all those shiftings of inner equilibrium, those changes of the personal centre of energy, which I have analyzed so often; and the chief wonder of it is that it so often comes about, not by doing, but by simply relaxing and throwing the burden down ."

Lectures XIV and XV on The Value of Saintliness (among the best lectures of all!), "The basenesses so commonly charged to religion's account are thus, almost all of them, not chargeable at all to religion proper, but rather to religion's wicked practical partner, the spirit of corporate [organized] dominion. And the bigotries are most of them in their turn chargeable to religion's wicked intellectual partner, the spirit of dogmatic dominion, the passion for laying down the law in the form of an absolutely closed in-theoretic system."

...and "The saints, with their extravagance of human tenderness, are the great torch-bearers of this belief [of the essential sacredness of every person], the tip of the wedge, the clearers of the darkness. Like the single drops which sparkle in the sun as they are flung far ahead of the advancing edge of a wave-crest or of a flood, they show the way and are forerunners. The world is not yet with them, so they often seem in the midst of the world's affairs to be preposterous. Yet they are impregnators of the world, vivifiers and animators of potentialities of goodness which, but for them, would like forever dormant."

Also the commentaries at the end on James by Thomas Flournoy and Josiah Royce are well worth the read.

May 09, 2012

thank you

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at MPL

To Top