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The Varieties of Religious Experience

The Varieties of Religious Experience

Written by William James

Narrated by John Pruden


The Varieties of Religious Experience

Written by William James

Narrated by John Pruden

ratings:
4/5 (19 ratings)
Length:
19 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Mar 14, 2011
ISBN:
9781452671208
Format:
Audiobook

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Description

First published in 1905, The Varieties of Religious Experience is a collection of lectures given at the University of Edinburgh in 1901 and 1902. William James was a psychologist and, as such, his interest in religion was not that of a theologian but of a scientist. In these twenty lectures, he discusses the nature and origin of religious belief.



The average believer is one who has inherited his religion, but this will not do for James's inquiry. He must find those believers who have a voracious religious faith because these people have also often experienced a number of peculiar psychological episodes, including having visions, hearing voices, and falling into trances.



Students of psychology and those interested in the mental process of belief will find these lectures informative.
Publisher:
Released:
Mar 14, 2011
ISBN:
9781452671208
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as ebookEbook

About the author

William James (1842–1910) was an American philosopher, physician, and psychologist. The brother of novelist Henry James, William James is remembered for his contributions to the fields of pragmatism and functional psychology. 


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4.0
19 ratings / 15 Reviews
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  • (4/5)
    Understanding Religious Experiences This book contains lectures given by William James in Scotland in which he examines diverse religious experiences in search of their meaning. The lectures formed a systematic work and are written in a clear way. James’s conception of pragmatism - the emphasis in the experimental method and the idea of meaning that dismiss hard/dogmatic truth - influences the exposition. The lectures deal with many personal expositions of religious experiences - the ways in which they are exposed and their meanings for each and everyone involved. James gives his analysis of these various episodes and tries to elaborate a grand narrative. In search of understanding, one finds tolerance toward the diverse religious attitudes. A book worth reading (listening).
  • (4/5)
    Early qualitative research. Appreciate the pragmatism of approach/philosophy.
  • (5/5)
    I wore a copy of this book out, and replaced it in the early nineties with this edition. It is both a worthy reference (still, more than 100 years after it was first written), and a pleasure to read.
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    A good, although difficult, read. How does human nature act upon our perceptions of what we consider supernatural? There is validity to our spiritual bent. It comes about through culture and belief. The validity of that belief is independent of scientific verification.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (1/5)
    James' atheistic arrogance and sarcasm drip through almost every page. This pretentious and deceitful pseudo-enlightenment of our privileged class is appalling and leads us to the effete socialism of Greece, Italy, France, Spain, etc.
  • (3/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    The book, The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James is the result of the 1901 Gifford Lectures on Natural religion at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. My edition was published in 1958. William James was an American psychology professor (Harvard University). He came to philosophy late in his life.As can be expected of a non-fiction book written in the early part of the last century (1901-2), it is dense. The vocabulary and grammar are a bit stiff and academic. As can be expected of a book that has remained in print for over a century, Varieties in Religious Experience is a fascinating, landmark book.It takes over 20 pages to define religion as it will be discussed in the lectures/book. “Religion, therefore, as I now ask you arbitrarily to take it, shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.” is a quotation from the middle of this discussion, which further defines divine so that it includes the non concrete divine such as in Emerson's Natural Law and Buddhism's atheism.James' view is of individual extremes of religious emotions, objects, and acts. Apparent unity is artificial, and it is in the variety where one finds the reality of religious inspiration and truth.This is the first draft of this review, which will be continued when I finish the book, which will be a while, as it is an incredibly dense book.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (1/5)
    I am actually glad I read this. It was rather educational. Maybe the most educational example in here is poor old Henry Suso. Yup, he of the "undergarment studded with a hundred and fifty brass nails, sharpened and so fixed as to pierce his skin".Thomas Paine dismissed this kind of nonsense easily a hundred years before James in The Age of Reason. Someone else's private "revelations" are nothing to me.
  • (5/5)
    James asks: "Who know whether the faithfulness of individuals here below to their poor over-beliefs may not actually help God in turn be more effectively faithful to his own greater tasks?"James asserts the need for psychology to study individual spiritual experiences. This being a legitimate and often fruitful occurrence with practical effects. He gives account of many individuals and their stories, and studies the thread recurring in many of them, the core being love of God and others, the feeling of relief and all will be alright as taken care of by something greater than oneself.
  • (5/5)
    William James presented the "Gifford Lectures on Natural Theology" at the University of Edinburgh as 10 lectures each in 1901 and 1902, and later published his edited lecture notes as this book. James presents a psychology, a philosophy, and a science of religion, aspects of which are both remarkably modern and out-dated. His use of first-person narratives (many quoted from E.D. Starbuck's 1899 "The Psychology of Religion" -- full text available at books.google.com) provides a database which he then uses to build his thesis. Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and most directly Carl Sagan ("Varieties of Scientific Experience") all build on this foundation. The clearly (and stated) Anglo-Protestant perspective which James takes dates this work, but the read is still more than worthwhile. The first 15 lectures (or so) present his "psychological" data, while the remaining lectures provide his philosophical and "scientific" conclusions. Now on to "The Varieties of Religious Experience: Centenary Essays" by Michel Ferrari and "William James and a Science of Religions: Reexperiencing The Varieties of Religious Experience" by Wayne Proudfoot. [Proudfoot edited the B&N version of "Varieties" and provides a good introductory chapter.]
  • (2/5)
    A dry and brutally boring read. I know it is supposed to be a classic but 19th century religious psychology is not for me I guess. However, there were a few gems within this tome. I now know where the "streams of consciousness" idea comes from. Maybe its being so immersed in the world right now makes reading about individuals who turn their back on it seem a waste of time.Originally published in 1902
  • (5/5)
    A brilliant exposition by a brilliant mind. Hard to imagine how one set of parents gave birth to two such brilliant men: William and his brother Henry.
  • (5/5)
    This had a profound experience on my faith, both negative and positive. It made clear that the ideas I had previously used to defend my faith were inadequate, butcleared the way for my developing others.It convinced me that conversion and mysterical experiences were objective phenomena, but not always Christian ones.
  • (3/5)
    James describes the phenomena of many different kinds of religious experineces in this book. It is a very analytical look at an emotional / spiritual subject. He appears to keep objective throughout, but we all know in the end that is immpossible. It was more objective than I think I could ever be. Again, another book on philosophy that while good, I found incomplete. Some day I am going to begin to write my own thoughts so that I will have a book to read that at least attempts to cover everything I'm looking for.
  • (4/5)
    Undoubtedly William James most popular book, I found this to be, as it always is with James, a joy to read. His style kept me going when both the combination strange ideas and impenetrable prose of his cited examples retarded my progress. His focus on the individuality of experience was what struck me as central and certainly most important to me - the mature individualist that I am. While I was not convinced by the mysticism surveyed or the various rationalizations of religious pondering, I came away with a better sense of this type of thought. Unlike Santayana I was not bothered by the focus on "religious disease" or "sick souls", but my perspective, unlike his, is a bit more rational, if not more reasonable. On the whole a very good book about a subject that is spiritual in many ways.
  • (5/5)
    The basis of any understanding I might have of comparative religion.