Religious Experience -An Introduction

I’ve put together a list of links which will help with reading William James – The Varieties of Religious Experience. What follows should help you to access this area of the course more fully.

There is an excellent summary here:

Lectures 16 and 17 give James’ characteristics of religious experience; lectures 1, 2 and 20 give his aims and main conclusions.

Remember, this is a core text for the Religious Experience topic, because it provides the basis for most of that part of the specification. Students will need to be familiar with it to explain and evaluate:

This is available here:

The topic includes these things from the spec:

Learners need to know the nature and influence of religious experience, including mystical experience and conversion experience.

 • different ways in which individual religious experiences can be understood

• examples of mystical and conversion experiences and views about these, including:

 o views and main conclusions of William James

• as union with a greater power

• psychological effect such as illusion

• the product of a physiological effect

 Learners should have the opportunity to discuss issues related to arguments for the existence of God based on reason, including:

• whether personal testimony or witness is enough to support the validity of religious experiences

• whether or not corporate religious experiences might be considered more reliable or valid than individual experiences

• whether or not religious experience provides a basis for belief in God or a greater power


The other references for this topic are below. I have found some links to these online.

 Contextual references

Suggested scholarly views, academic approaches and sources of wisdom and authority

Learners will be given credit for referring to any appropriate scholarly views, academic approaches and sources of wisdom and authority, however the following examples may prove useful

• Acts 9.4–8, 22.6–10, 26

• Otto, R. (1923/1968) The Idea of the Holy, Oxford University Press, Chapters 4 and 5

• Saint Teresa of Avila, from The Autobiography of Saint Teresa

Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy:

There is a good summary here:

and here , chapters 2-5 provide a basic guide to Otto’s theory of the ‘numinous’.

Bible Gateway will help you find the passages from Acts.

The Autobiography of Teresa of Avila.

As with all the topics in the course, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a very clear overview of the whole subject:



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