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William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience


This is a copy of Marc Fonda's Notes on William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience. I want to thank Marc publicly for allowing me to make this mirror available to you. You may find it useful to print out his notes to aid your study of James's book. Please be sure to check Marc's other pages related to the psychology of religion; follow this link to his other pages.


This page is my notes on James' classic study of religion. In addition to serving as a sort of "Cliff's Notes" for the book, it is also a home page for pointers to other information on the Net, pertinent to the various topics discussed.

The book is based on a series of lectures, given at the University at Edinburg around the turn of the century. It seems far less dated than one would expect, IMHO.

Disclaimer #1: James has a skeptical attitude toward religious experience, which I share. This is not a blanket condemnation of religion, on his part or mine. There is much more to religion than emotionalism. Nor is it a dismissal of religious experience, but merely putting it into perspective. Far be it from me to discourage anyone from seeking God. The point is to seek in such a way as to find. This requires use of the critical faculties.

Disclaimer #2: James is utterly disdainful of organized religion. My own attitude toward it, however, is much more nuanced. I would judge each religion, organized or not, on its own merits.

  • 1 Religion and neurology
  • 2 Circumscription of the topic
  • 3 The reality of the unseen
  • 4,5 The religion of healthy-mindedness
  • 6,7 The sick soul
  • 8 The divided self, and the process of its unification
  • 9 Conversion
  • 10 Conversion - concluded
  • 11,12,13 Saintliness
  • 14,15 The value of saintliness
  • 16,17 Mysticism
  • 18 Philosophy
  • 19 Other characterisitics
  • 20 Conclusions

    Comments and suggestions to: ngr2_delete_this_@ren.ultranet.com. I'm particulary interested in more and better hyper-links. (Please, no more ads for ashrams and mail-order new age thingies. To be blunt, these groups are a dime a dozen. I'm interested in variety, not just current fads.)

    See also: William James: Essays in Radical Empiricism


  • This page has been accessed times since September 28, 1996.