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The Varieties of Religious Experience

Narrated by: John Pruden
Length: 19 hrs and 1 min
Categories: Non-fiction, Philosophy
4 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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 20 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.

Public Domain (P)2011 Tantor

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Fascinating and Relevant Still

So good! I'll have to buy a hard copy to read in absorb it more.

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  • Chris R
  • 20-10-2016

Dense & Insightful

This series of lectures in the parlance of today can really be called, "Varieties of Spiritual Experiences". James' use of language is very stilted and formal by today's standard. This distracted from my listening as James seems to get lost in language and verbosity. I found myself often saying, " simplify, please get to the point". This being said, it is a deep, expressive and thoughtful book, by a sincere and sensitive man of deep intellect. A pedagogue at heart, his desire to take the reader/listener thru his thought process and personal seeking is sincere and enlightening.

John Pruden's reading is superb and showed his interest in James' work and never once did I get the feeling he was slogging thru a performance. Kudos to him.

This is not a one time book to listen to (or read) but to be reviewed and thought about over time with several (and patient) reviews. One's spiritual insight will be well rewarded.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • 21-03-2015

God **ahem** bless William James.

The amazing thing about James is he can write with precision and humility about something so completely intrinsic and fraught with pit falls. Most writers run at the subject with some large bias of the mystical, the . You have thousand of books written every year proclaiming their strain of Christianity, Judaism, Vegetarianism, Atheism, Mormonism, Buddhism, as being the only true and living way to view the divine AND the only mirror to view and judge ourselves. James is different. He artfully and carefully presents a measured approach to religion. He picks it apart with affection. He looks at it normatively and then he tries to look at each speck and piece through a value lens.

I believe the magic of this book is James isn't selling a belief. He isn't pimping a lifestyle. He is just curious and very very smart. And it isn't a clinical curiosity either (although his precision could be called clinical). It is a joyful curiosity. A drive to discover how we work and what really makes us tick. He wants to know and explain his hypothesis. God **ahem** bless William James. He wasn't just describing the transcendental condition of mankind, he was establishing and building a framework for others to follow for over 100 years.

36 of 45 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 19-09-2019

Spiritual experiences,stars,universes and dimensional lives

I loved this book. I can relate to some experiences in my life. To know that I can see versions and hear voices in meditation and walk in different dimensions within the earthly word and seen and walked in the spirit word, is common to be able to see as a blessed gift. This book made understand how these reality’s can occur and they are hidden keys and meaning to each individual. I’ve always been in tuned with the beams of the universe. I believe in reincarnation that I can see or feel the past and future in my present life. The shift in the world or the conversion of people is a real. I like how this book was written and explained. I liked hearing the book and I read it at the same time underlining what I can relate to. I like how time and space and the universe and stars were talked about in a manner I can understand. I feel this book is a great read and I benefit and learned a big deal from it. I’ll always have this book with me it’s that good. I believe I’m like a Phoenix bird since the first dawn of my time. Enteral life is life as I known it to be.-Edward Sanchez
I feel the title of the book is good but I feel that the word religious in it will drive some people away, however I do understand why it’s the title and I love it. I would have like to have read about immortality from William James,I’m into that topic.
Overall this book was written before I was born but it really told parts of my life and the rebirth within my time that I’ve noticed made me grow instantly and that is all the powers that may be within the solar system and the holy spirit. These book was ahead of its time and I loved , loved the notes in the back, I’m all about the details and history of were inspiration came from and comes from. I enjoyed this read and I got through it in four days. It’s an awesome book to have and it contains brilliant ideas and knowledge.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Customer 101
  • 28-05-2019

over the top excellence

chug through this beauty on my commute. got lost a couple times because of the verbage used in the early 20th century. but James 20 lectures giving an edinboro in 1910 was quite remarkable. although somewhat outdated he defines modes of religious qualities and describes each in depth

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Marcus
  • 05-02-2019

Understanding Religious Experience

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).

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • James
  • 26-09-2018

A Unique, Empathetic Inquiry

This is a book I will undoubtedly come back to over and over throughout my life. I loved his scientific treatment of the subject and loved his willingness to admit what we just don't know.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Margaret
  • 25-11-2017

More than 100 years old and still entirely current

This work is a classic, recognized as such when issued as a book more than a century ago and continuing. I recommend it to anyone with any interest in the phenomena of personal religious experience presented by a scientist.

I have been interested in religion since I started Grade 1 at a Catholic school in the exurbs (at that time) of Toronto. I had a sudden conversion experience to what I would now call pantheism at age 18. I am now a member of a Unitarian Universalist congregation.

As a psychologist addressing an audience of eminent theologians and philosophers, James quotes long excerpts from the writings of many men and women about their own religious experience. Sudden conversion to godly devotion is one phenomenon about which such primary material was abundant. My sudden conversion was less dramatic than any of those James recounts.

A fascinating but horrifying phenomenon is the extremes of "asceticism." I heard bits of the legends of Christian martyrs and ascetics from the nuns who taught at my school. Nightmare stuff, still.

Historically, this work came at a very interesting time for the intellectual culture of Europe and the United States. "On the Origin of Species" had been published 40 years before and had been gaining acceptance and respectability continuously. As Darwin knew, his work was a challenge to the authority of the Great Jaweh. In these lectures, the profound changes in the character of the Great Jaweh (generally just called "God") over the centuries are laid out and analyzed scientifically, along with the stories of powerful deities who have come and gone.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Guillaume de Shanghai
  • 24-08-2016

Too dense and complex

It has been very hard to listen to this (long) book until the end. It requires a quite advanced understanding of philosophy already (which I was not familiar with, unfortunately).
Additionally, the collection of these religious experiences was boring to listen to at time (too often it was the same experience again and again).
The book might be interesting for scholars, but it is definitely too high level for the average reader I think I am!

5 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Amy
  • 14-05-2017

Very mixed quality

I found these lectures very mixed. Some sections were incredibly fascinating and well written while others felt very lacking. I almost stopped reading several times but then I would come upon a section I found compelling.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeff
  • 06-08-2012

Difficult as a classic

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

The narrator has done a fairly good job, but the problems lie in the contents, a more than hundred years ago materials and English is not like today's American English , it makes the whole listening very strenuous. The contents need more time to digest and savour than normal speed can allow. Even ,for me, half the normal speed may not allow enough space to think deep. Audible.com has to figure out ways to improve the listen-ability of classic materials.

8 of 28 people found this review helpful