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Extended Audio Sample The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (4,000 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: William James Narrator: John Pruden Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2011 ISBN: 9781452671208
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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’ 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 visions, voices, and falling into trances.

Students of psychology and those interested in the mental process of belief will find these lectures informative.

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Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ronald Lett | 2/18/2014

    " An interestingly objective viewpoint on religious philosophy, at least as restricted to personal, uniquely religious mindsets. The author includes a plethora of genuinely interesting excerpts from individual monologues related to the topic that do serve to illustrate his eventual position. However, given the date of the material (1902), most of the tools necessary for hard exploration of the topic in the fashion that the author's position necessitates have yet to be developed. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Benjamin | 2/10/2014

    " James does an admirable job analyzing what is essential to the religious sensibility at the beginning of the 20th century, which, as should be expected, produces many results that are still relevant today, and many that are not (especially for non-Christians). "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Neil Mudde | 1/30/2014

    " A very interesting book giving different backgrounds as to how people believe, historically "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Adih Respati | 1/28/2014

    " I was very much looking forward to reading James' Varieties, so when found one I took a read in an instant. But the book isn't as daring as I thought it would be. James' words on atheism are political at best, rather than outspoken. But this book is dubbed historical, so I should, for the time being, be suspicious of my disappointment; and try to find another time to read it for the second time --see if history turned out to be right, and that I missed many things on the first read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Monica | 1/27/2014

    " This was a book that I picked up while having temporary religious doubt. It was written in 1902. It takes different aspects of religion- conversion, saintliness, mysticism- and it approaches and dissects them from the point of view of psychology. Some interesting points were made. For me, it really just read like a textbook. There were a lot of firsthand examples of the various topics James covered. I'm not at all adverse to reading this book again to try to understand it better. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kamili | 1/26/2014

    " I borrowed this from a friend so that I could read "Will to Believe." I never returned the book (or it's approx. 3 years, 2 months, and about 15 days late). William James is making me immoral. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lalena Parkhurst | 1/26/2014

    " A very practical and non-judgmental approach to personal religious experience. I wish his attitude were more common in this supposedly religiously tolerant country of ours. The only thing I bristled at was the way he looked down on "savage" religions. He obviously made no attempt to understand the personal experience of those following traditional African or Native American religious traditions. Or any others he would have considered savage. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Craig | 1/24/2014

    " This will most definitely have a place on my private shelf. This states volumes about how I feel re this work(I don't own a lot of books--won't get into it right now, just makes little sense to own it when you can share it). James is close to perfect in his exposition of religious experience(s) and his ideas and theories on empirical data in relation to something as personal as religious experience hold strong and are almost radical in the face of the ideology of pure science (whatever that is) uber alles, which dominates most of what passes for science today. Brilliant, genius, evocative. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Craig | 1/13/2014

    " This will most definitely have a place on my private shelf. This states volumes about how I feel re this work(I don't own a lot of books--won't get into it right now, just makes little sense to own it when you can share it). James is close to perfect in his exposition of religious experience(s) and his ideas and theories on empirical data in relation to something as personal as religious experience hold strong and are almost radical in the face of the ideology of pure science (whatever that is) uber alles, which dominates most of what passes for science today. Brilliant, genius, evocative. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lewis Zimmerman | 1/13/2014

    " A great work. Really a series of lectures. Very humane "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carol F | 1/12/2014

    " I actually had to buy this book for a college class so I wasn't expecting to enjoy it too much. Required reading often bores me to tears. But this book actually held my interest from start to finish. Studying the common threads between religion in different cultures was interesting. It's hard to believe this book was not written recently. Of all the required reading I've had to do in college this book had the greatest effect on me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Clifford | 1/10/2014

    " I spent three months studying this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alex | 1/9/2014

    " First book we read for MA program. I'm pretty sure James is right. About everything. Particularly the 'sick soul.' "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Topher See | 1/6/2014

    " Once you wade through the rhetorical flourish, there is alot to take away from this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rich | 1/2/2014

    " Investigative reading into the era "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Becca | 12/20/2013

    " Gods. This is the longest a book has taken me in a while. Maybe since I read The Grapes of Wrath. That one, at least, I enjoyed more. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kim | 12/9/2013

    " If you are interested in the psychology of religion, this is the classic, written in the late 19th century and the foundation for a lot of modern thinking about the human need for spirituality. It's rough going in places but worth it (or do what I did -- skip over the hard parts!). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jerry | 12/5/2013

    " Much easier to read than anticipated. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Topher See | 11/27/2013

    " Once you wade through the rhetorical flourish, there is alot to take away from this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patrick Calabria | 7/23/2013

    " His writing style is ROUGH. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 George Bradford | 6/20/2013

    " COEXIST. We share our world with a wide variety of diverse human beings. Each and every one of us deserves to be respected. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Frank Spencer | 6/8/2013

    " can't be beat, and he was not feeling at all well when he did this "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Donquierafaber | 5/22/2013

    " A satisfyingly academic and respectful treatment of the individual experience of religion. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Guy | 2/10/2013

    " I had come to this book with high expectations, but found it did not live up to them. It is a good book, and probably worth re-reading, but just haven't got to it yet. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Caitlin | 10/29/2012

    " This book had a huge influence on me in college, so I must put it on my list. I can't remember enough to say anything too detailed, but his insights into why people are religious are fascinating. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brad | 8/31/2012

    " Much too verbose for my liking "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Steven Miller | 8/20/2012

    " This is a place holder for the review I will eventually do. James did it first and did it pretty darn well. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andrew Cutler | 6/30/2012

    " A classic of James that pre-dates the 'neuro-theology' trends that arose later in the century. James covers fascinating topics like yoga, mysticism, and the effects of laughing gas, in his characteristic 'American pragmatic' style. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Josh | 6/12/2012

    " One of the best books on religion I have ever had the pleasure to read. William James is at once objective and deeply humane in his poignant analysis of personal and institutional religion. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Matthew Lukach | 5/26/2012

    " A useful text for anyone who seeks to have religion in his life without giving up our innate faculties of reason, doubt, science, and accountabilty. James is perhaps the most important of American philosophers. His writing is accessible and clear, offering his unique ideas about religion in America. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 George Bradford | 5/13/2012

    " COEXIST. We share our world with a wide variety of diverse human beings. Each and every one of us deserves to be respected. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anthony | 5/3/2012

    " This was to be able to see religion examined from a psychological perspective. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patrick Calabria | 4/30/2012

    " His writing style is ROUGH. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amy Turner | 4/3/2012

    " Slow going but worth it. A much quoted book. My one sentence summary: Religous experience is personal and emotional, and tends to turn into dogma when codified and shared. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan | 2/19/2012

    " I really loved this book -- although I only would read it by picking and choosing certain chapters. Helped me to understand spiritual experiences, as well as understand the beginnings of American psychology. I especially liked the stories of ordinary people who had spiritual experiences. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alex | 12/22/2011

    " First book we read for MA program. I'm pretty sure James is right. About everything. Particularly the 'sick soul.' "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gabriel | 10/15/2011

    " Very interesting, especially the first few lectures. However, it left me wishing I had been in the audience so I could ask follow up questions. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lewis Zimmerman | 10/7/2011

    " A great work. Really a series of lectures. Very humane "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dr. | 8/31/2011

    " This is a classic by an author who some describe as the greatest American psychologist that ever lived. His chapter on the Sick Soul directs us to vistas and ways of viewing various pathological states that are unique and even awe inspiring. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Danny | 8/17/2011

    " This one was very long and hard to follow at times but aside from that I tend to agree with the conclusions reached in the book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Josh | 4/13/2011

    " One of the best books on religion I have ever had the pleasure to read. William James is at once objective and deeply humane in his poignant analysis of personal and institutional religion. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Danny | 2/11/2011

    " This one was very long and hard to follow at times but aside from that I tend to agree with the conclusions reached in the book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rodger | 11/21/2010

    " The philosophical foundations for this analysis of religious experience utilize James' pragmatic approach to inquiry. It is very readable and easy to follow. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anthony | 9/28/2010

    " This was to be able to see religion examined from a psychological perspective. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 James | 8/30/2010

    " Excellent book with very interesting and inspirational examples and case histories...learned a lot... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brad | 8/13/2010

    " Much too verbose for my liking "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lana | 6/17/2010

    " I have been working my way through this book for three years now. Have not lost hope though. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Steve | 6/14/2010

    " American pragmatism applied to religion. As Dad said, value creates truth rather than truth creating value. Helpful for understanding much of American religious culture. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Doug | 5/18/2010

    " A noodle-twist of the first order. Read it if you're hungry for astonishment. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 J. | 5/14/2010

    " This is a classic that I am glad to say is still around and may be purchased at many bookstores.

    J. Robert Ewbank author "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the 'Isms'" "

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About the Author
Author William James

William James (1842–1910), brother of novelist Henry James, was an American psychologist, philosopher, a groundbreaking researcher at Harvard University, and one of the most popular thinkers of the nineteenth century. Among his many works are Principles of Psychology and Human Immortality.