*The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (1902)
The Varieties of Religious Experience is a book by the late Harvard psychologist and philosopher William James, comprising 20 lectures given at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. While The Varieties of Religious Experience was first published in 1902, the work continues to be the subject of academic study and is still considered to be one of the best psychological studies of spiritual experience to date.
William James believed that individual religious experiences, rather than the precepts of organized religions, are the backbone of the world’s spiritual life. His discussion on conversion, repentance, mysticism, and saintliness – and his observation on actual, personal religious experiences – all support this thesis.
The lectures included in The Varieties of Religious Experience concerned the nature of religion and the neglect of science, in James’ view, in the academic study of religion. Soon after its publication, the book found its way into the canon of psychology and philosophy, and has remained in print for over a century. A free, PDF copy of James’ book is available on the University of Notre Dame’s website at the page listed below: