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The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902)

by William James

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Gifford Lectures (1900-1902)

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5,254362,061 (3.91)71
Psychology. Religion & Spirituality. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:

Harvard psychologist and philosopher William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature explores the nature of religion and, in James' observation, its divorce from science when studied academically. After publication in 1902 it quickly became a canonical text of philosophy and psychology, remaining in print through the entire century.

"Scientific theories are organically conditioned just as much as religious emotions are; and if we only knew the facts intimately enough, we should doubtless see 'the liver' determining the dicta of the sturdy atheist as decisively as it does those of the Methodist under conviction anxious about his soul. When it alters in one way the blood that percolates it, we get the Methodist, when in another way, we get the atheist form of mind."

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» See also 71 mentions

English (34)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
_The Varieties of Religious Experience_ builds to the climax of James explaining his philosophy of Pragmatism. What I think is important here to the religion vs. rationalism debate is that James has no time for established religion, dogma, or theology. Rather, he focuses on the mystical, individual life-changing experiences people have in sensing the presence of a higher power. These experiences are as real as falling in love - they are a psychological phenomenon that, according to James, bubble up from the subconscious and have direct, pragmatic, positive effects on a person's life. What is missing here is a discussion of cultural influence on these experiences - why do people in Christian culture only frame these experiences in terms of Christianity? Do people lack a language outside of their culture to describe these mystical experiences? ( )
1 vote jonbrammer | Jul 1, 2023 |
The classic work by a brilliant psychologist on the variety and importance of religious experience.
  PendleHillLibrary | May 25, 2023 |
Another one I remember reading some years ago, without now recalling its details, except it was mostly about Christian religious experiences. ( )
  mykl-s | Apr 12, 2023 |
I marked this classic 4 out of 10 stars or 8 out of 20 stars because of this publisher's format or layout of this edition not because of the original treatise.

The original treatise is worth reading and I found it enjoyable to a point but this 2012 edition by Oxford World's Classsics contains just an inordinate quantity of the tiniest scriptface that is too tiny to read safely or comfortably

William James is both pragmatic and charismatic ( )
  Arthur_Kennedy | Jan 12, 2023 |
I really found this boring ( )
  melsmarsh | Dec 25, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abzug, Robert H.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Barzun, JacquesForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Niebuhr, ReinholdIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nock, Arthur DarbyForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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IN FILIAL GRATITUDE AND LOVE
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This book would never have been written had I not been honored with an appointment as Gifford Lecturer on Natural Religion at the University of Edinburgh.
It is with no small amount of trepidation that I take my place behind this desk, and face this learned audience. To us Americans, the experience of receiving instruction from the living voice, as well as from the books, of European scholars, is very familiar. At my own University of Harvard, not a winter passes without its harvest, large or small, of lectures from Scottish, English, French, or German representatives of the science or literature of their respective countries whom we have either induced to cross the ocean to address us, or captured on the wing as they were visiting our land. It seems the natural thing for us to listen whilst the Europeans talk. The contrary habit, of talking whilst the Europeans listen, we have not yet acquired; and in him who first makes the adventure it begets a certain sense of apology being due for so presumptuous an act. Particularly must this be the case on a soil as sacred to the American imagination as that of Edinburgh. The glories of the philosophic chair of this university were deeply impressed on my imagination in boyhood. Professor Fraser’s Essays in Philosophy, then just published, was the first philosophic book I ever looked into, and I well remember the awestruck feeling I received from the account of Sir William Hamilton’s classroom therein contained. Hamilton’s own lectures were the first philosophic writings I ever forced myself to study, and after that I was immersed in Dugald Stewart and Thomas Brown. Such juvenile emotions of reverence never get outgrown; and I confess that to find my humble self promoted from my native wilderness to be actually for the time an official here, and transmuted into a colleague of these illustrious names, carries with it a sense of dreamland quite as much as of reality.
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This is (famously) by the same author as Principles of Psychology, The Will to Believe, Essays in Radical Empiricism, etc.
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Psychology. Religion & Spirituality. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:

Harvard psychologist and philosopher William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature explores the nature of religion and, in James' observation, its divorce from science when studied academically. After publication in 1902 it quickly became a canonical text of philosophy and psychology, remaining in print through the entire century.

"Scientific theories are organically conditioned just as much as religious emotions are; and if we only knew the facts intimately enough, we should doubtless see 'the liver' determining the dicta of the sturdy atheist as decisively as it does those of the Methodist under conviction anxious about his soul. When it alters in one way the blood that percolates it, we get the Methodist, when in another way, we get the atheist form of mind."

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