The best books on spiritual experiences

The Books I Picked & Why

Autobiography of a Yogi

By Paramahansa Yogananda

Book cover of Autobiography of a Yogi

Why this book?

Named one of the 100 best spiritual books of the 20th century, this autobiography of a guru’s spiritual search for enlightenment reads like a page-turner thriller. Here’s one story: when he was a young boy, his atheist brother dared him (if he believed so firmly in God) to go without money to a far-off city, live well for a day, and return without having spent a cent. That story alone changed my life.


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The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature

By William James

Book cover of The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature

Why this book?

Taken from his 1901-01 lectures at the University of Edinburgh, this book offers the quintessential psychological study of mysticism and spiritual experiences, identifying commonalities and taking seriously the Reality of the Unseen. A true spiritual illumination, says James, is authoritative, temporary, optimistic, and always verifies union with something larger than the conscious self. 


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Rumi: Poems

By Jalal Al-Din Rumi

Book cover of Rumi: Poems

Why this book?

I am not suggesting any particular book of the poems of this famous Persian poet and Sufi mystic. There are dozens of translations. Read any. His ecstatic poetry, as well as reflective musings all, lead to deepening love, the center and meaning of a spiritual experience.


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Mysticism

By Evelyn Underhill

Book cover of Mysticism

Why this book?

This is sometimes heavy slogging, and irritating for the absence of her personal spiritual stories, but it remains a seminal work. Her lifelong quest was a source of private angst, provoking her to research and write novels, poems, and this psychological exploration of how the mystic fits into both worlds with joy. It includes a valuable appendix of mystics over centuries.


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In Love with the World: A Monk's Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying

By Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Helen Tworkov

Book cover of In Love with the World: A Monk's Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying

Why this book?

Reared from sheltered babyhood as a fully enlightened being, the abbot decided at the age of 36 to leave the monastery and wander begging like the Buddha for food. I was amazed. He openly recounts the emotions of grappling for the first time with physical needs – including his descent into dying, his recovery, and his joy of this difficult world.


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