William James’s ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience’

13 May, 2010 200 Religion

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience’ by William James. The American novelist Henry James famously made London his home and himself more English than the English. In contrast, his psychologist brother, William, was deeply immersed in his American heritage. But in 1901, William came to Britain too. He had been invited to deliver a series of prestigious public lectures in Edinburgh. In them, he attempted a daringly original intellectual project. For the first time, here was a close-up examination of religion not as a body of beliefs, but as an intimate personal experience. When the lectures were printed, as ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience’, they were an instant success.They laid the ground for a whole new area of study - the psychology of religion - and influenced figures from the psychiatrist Carl Jung to the novelist Aldous Huxley. To date, James’s book has been reprinted thirty-six times and has been hailed as one of the best non-fiction books of the twentieth century.

Play on BBC Sounds website


  • Jonathan Ree 8 episodes
    Freelance philosopher
  • John Haldane 8 episodes
    Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews
  • Gwen Griffith-Dickson No other episodes
    Emeritus Professor of Divinity at Gresham College and Director of the Lokahi Foundation

Related episodes

Programme ID: b00s9ftw

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00s9ftw

Auto-category: 200 (Religion)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. One day in the 19th century in America, a man locked himself in a room and refused food and water.