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Lord Frederick Leighton, Spirit of the Summit [19th Cent.] (Public Domain Image)
Lord Frederick Leighton, Spirit of the Summit [19th Cent.] (Public Domain Image)

The Varieties of Religious Experience

by William James


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In all sad sincerity I think we must conclude that the attempt to demonstrate by purely intellectual processes the truth of the deliverances of direct religious experience is absolutely hopeless...It would be unfair to philosophy, however, to leave her under this negative sentence. Let me close, then, by briefly enumerating what she can do for religion. If she will abandon metaphysics and deduction for criticism and induction, and frankly transform herself from theology into science of religions, she can make herself enormously useful.--p. 445

William James, one of the founders of modern psychology, delivered the Gifford lecture in Edinburgh for 1901-2 at a high point in his career. His theme was a systematic analysis of phases of the process of religious conversion. He examines (mostly Christian) descriptions of conversion phenomena. He analyzes psychological phenomena connected with saintliness, and mysticism. James believed that science and religion are not incompatible and that both could benefit from each other.

Production Notes: This etext was sourced from the Project Gutenberg etext of this book, based on the Modern Library edition (by internal evidence), published in 1938. No additional copyright claims were found on this edition. I acquired a copy of this edition and used the PG etext as a starting point for the proof file. I added page numbers, footnote formatting, the index in its entirety, and corrected a number of paragraph, emphasis and spelling issues to bring the text back into conformance with the source edition. --J.B. Hare, April 27, 2008.

Title Page
Lecture I. Religion And Neurology
Lecture II. Circumscription of the Topic
Lecture III. The Reality of the Unseen
Lectures IV and V. The Religion of Healthy Mindedness
Lectures VI and VII. The Sick Soul
Lecture VIII. The Divided Self, and the Process of its Unification
Lecture IX. Conversion
Lecture X. Conversion—Concluded
Lectures XI, XII, and XIII. Saintliness
Lectures XIV and XV. The Value of Saintliness
Lectures XVI and XVII. Mysticism
Lecture XVIII. Philosophy
Lecture XIX. Other Characteristics
Lecture XX. Conclusions
Note on the Author