The Varieties of Religious Experience, first delivered as the Gifford Lectures in Edinburgh, was published in 1902 and quickly established itself as a classic. It ranks with its great predecessor, The Principles of Psychology, as one of William James’s masterworks.
The book is not concerned with institutional religion. Its subtitle is “A Study in Human Nature,” and James defines his subject as the feelings, acts, and experiences of individuals in relation to what they consider to be divine. His broad topics include the religion of healthy-mindedness; the sick soul; the divided self and its unification; conversion; saintliness; and mysticism. These and other phenomena are vividly documented by individual case histories—recorded in autobiographies, diaries, confessions, and similar writings—drawn from the whole range of world literature.
Constantly reprinted over the years, Varieties here appears for the first time in an edition prepared and annotated according to modern standards of textual scholarship. Manuscript material has been used to recover the form in which the last two lectures were originally delivered.