The best books on spiritual psychology

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a spiritual psychologist who investigates areas such as spiritual experiences, personal transformation, near-death experiences, and psi. I also write spiritual poetry. I had spiritual experiences (feelings of euphoria, harmony, and connection to my surroundings) as a teenager and always wondered why they occurred, how common they were in others, and whether they could become permanent. I became involved in the field of transpersonal psychology (which really is spiritual psychology) largely because I wanted to answer those questions. I see myself as an explorer of “the farther reaches of human nature” (in Abraham Maslow’s phrase). I’ve written many books about my explorations, including The Leap, Spiritual Science, and my new book Extraordinary Awakenings


I wrote...

Extraordinary Awakenings: When Trauma Leads to Transformation

By Steve Taylor,

Book cover of Extraordinary Awakenings: When Trauma Leads to Transformation

What is my book about?

Why do some people who experience the worst that life has to offer respond not by breaking down but by shifting up, into a higher-functioning, awakened state? And perhaps more importantly, how can we emulate their transformations? In Extraordinary Awakenings I share amazing stories of individuals who “woke up” to profound transformation following bereavement, deep depression, suicide attempts, addiction, military combat, imprisonment, or other intense encounters with mortality. I uncover the psychological processes that help explain these miraculous awakenings. I also highlight a number of lessons and guidelines from the experiences of shifters and offer readers hope and guidance to call on during their own struggles.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

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

Steve Taylor Why did I love this book?

William James was a great pioneer of American psychology. With his exceptional open-mindedness, he had a very broad notion of what psychology should investigate, including spirituality and paranormal phenomena. The Varieties of Religious Experience is not so much a study of religion in the normal sense but of spiritual and mystical experiences. James’s great insight is that ordinary consciousness is just one type of consciousness, and doesn’t tell us the whole truth about the world. He treats mystical experiences as more intense states of consciousness in which a deeper and fuller reality is revealed. James is a massive inspiration to me and I see myself as attempting to follow in his footsteps.

By William James,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Varieties of Religious Experience as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Standing at the crossroads of psychology and religion, this catalyzing work applied the scientific method to a field abounding in abstract theory. William James believed that individual religious experiences, rather than the precepts of organized religions, were the backbone of the world's religious life. His discussions of conversion, repentance, mysticism and saintliness, and his observations on actual, personal religious experiences - all support this thesis. In his introduction, Martin E. Marty discusses how James's pluralistic view of religion led to his remarkable tolerance of extreme forms of religious behaviour, his challenging, highly original theories, and his welcome lack of pretension…


Book cover of The Outsider

Steve Taylor Why did I love this book?

This book was life-changing for me. During my teenage years, I felt depressed and alienated. I read The Outsider just after my 20th birthday, and it changed my view of myself and gave me a new sense of my path in life. Outsiders are people who can’t accept the materialist values of ordinary society. They feel an urge to live more fully, to grow, to expand their consciousness. They may simply be frustrated social outcasts. However, some Outsiders express themselves creatively or find paths of self-transformation. They may become mystics, developing inner harmony and a heightened vision of reality. This book is an intoxicating mix of philosophy, psychology, and spirituality. I’ve always aspired to write as clearly and energetically as Wilson

By Colin Wilson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Outsider as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The classic study of alienation, creativity and the modern mind
'Excitingly written, with a sense of revelation' GUARDIAN

THE OUTSIDER was an instant literary sensation when it was first published in 1956, thrusting its youthful author into the front rank of contemporary writers and thinkers. Wilson rationalised the psychological dislocation so characteristic of Western creative thinking into a coherent theory of alienation, and defined those affected by it as a type: the outsider. Through the works and lives of various artists, including Kafka, Camus, Hemingway, Hesse, Lawrence, Van Gogh, Shaw, Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, Wilson explored the psyche of the outsider,…


Book cover of To Have or to Be?

Steve Taylor Why did I love this book?

Erich Fromm isn’t so well known nowadays, but I am a great admirer of his. He developed a wide-ranging vision of individual and collective well-being. He investigated the whole spectrum of human nature, from the cruelty and brutality of Nazi Germany (which he personally experienced, as a German Jew who escaped to the United States) to love and altruism. This book is his last major work, in which he decries modern society’s emphasis on having and suggests that the only authentic and fulfilling mode of life is being. He develops a concept of a new type of human being who lives in harmony with themselves and the world. Fromm rarely wrote explicitly about spirituality, but it’s an underlying theme of almost everything he wrote. 

By Erich Fromm,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked To Have or to Be? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To Have Or to Be? is one of the seminal books of the second half of the 20th century. Nothing less than a manifesto for a new social and psychological revolution to save our threatened planet, this book is a summary of the penetrating thought of Eric Fromm. His thesis is that two modes of existence struggle for the spirit of humankind: the having mode, which concentrates on material possessions, power, and aggression, and is the basis of the universal evils of greed, envy, and violence; and the being mode, which is based on love, the pleasure of sharing, and…


Book cover of Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century

Steve Taylor Why did I love this book?

A few years ago, I was writing a book called Spiritual Science and when people asked what it was about, I responded, “I’m trying to write a popular version of Irreducible Mind.” Irreducible Mind is a magnum opus – an attempt to move psychology beyond its present narrow limits, so that it can incorporate phenomena such as mystical/spiritual experiences and psi. More than anything, the book shows how the materialist worldview adopted by most modern academics is massively flawed, since it’s unable to explain a massive range of human experiences. Irreducible Mind is the first in a series of three books, all of which are essential reading. Two later volumes, Beyond Physicalism and Consciousness Unbound, explore alternative worldviews to materialism.

By Edward F. Kelly, Emily Williams Kelly, Adam Crabtree , Alan Gauld , Michael Grosso , Bruce Greyson

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Irreducible Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Current mainstream opinion in psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy of mind holds that all aspects of human mind and consciousness are generated by physical processes occurring in brains. Views of this sort have dominated recent scholarly publication. The present volume, however, demonstrates empirically that this reductive materialism is not only incomplete but false. The authors systematically marshal evidence for a variety of psychological phenomena that are extremely difficult, and in some cases clearly impossible, to account for in conventional physicalist terms. Topics addressed include phenomena of extreme psychophysical influence, memory, psychological automatisms and secondary personality, near-death experiences and allied phenomena, genius-level…


Book cover of The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Steve Taylor Why did I love this book?

This is one of the best-selling spiritual books of all time, and in my view, one reason for its success is that Eckhart Tolle is an insightful psychologist. The landscape of spiritual awakening is unknown territory for most of us. We need explorers to guide us, to show us obstacles and signs of progress. Because of his sharp intellect, Eckhart does this better than anyone. He’s really a spiritual psychologist, offering an acute analysis of the insanity of the human mind, identifying its causes, and showing us how to transcend it. It was a great honor to have some of my books published by Eckhart’s imprint. 

By Eckhart Tolle,

Why should I read it?

24 authors picked The Power of Now as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**CHOSEN BY OPRAH AS ONE OF HER 'BOOKS THAT HELP ME THROUGH'**

The international bestselling spiritual book, now with a new look for its 20th anniversary. Eckhart Tolle demonstrates how to live a healthier, happier, mindful life by living in the present moment.

************

'I keep Eckhart's book at my bedside. I think it's essential spiritual teaching. It's one of the most valuable books I've ever read.' Oprah Winfrey

To make the journey into The Power of Now we will need to leave our analytical mind and its false created self, the ego, behind. Although the journey is challenging, Eckhart…


You might also like...

The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

By Sammy Stein,

Book cover of The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

Sammy Stein Author Of Fabulous Female Musicians

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been passionate about music for almost my entire life. Jazz music in particular speaks to me but not just jazz. I love music, full stop. I really discovered jazz when I attended a jazz club workshop in London and there, I had to join in or leave. I chose to join in and since then I have never looked back. I was introduced to more jazz musicians and now write about music for three major columns as well as Readers’ Digest. My Women In Jazz book won several awards. I have been International Editor for the Jazz Journalist Association and had my work commissioned by the Library of Congress. 

Sammy's book list on female musicians

What is my book about?

With input from over 100 musicians, the book discusses what exactly jazz is, and how you know you are listening to it. Do we truly know when and how jazz first originated? Who was the first jazz musician? How does jazz link to other genres? What about women in jazz? And writers and journalists? Do reviews make any difference? 

This book is a deep dive into jazz's history, impact, and future. It discusses jazz's social, cultural, and political influence and reveals areas where jazz has had an impact we may not even realize.Its influences on hip hop, the connection to…

The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

By Sammy Stein,

What is this book about?

This book is very different from other, more general jazz books. It is packed with information, advice, well researched and includes experiences from jazz musicians who gleefully add their rich voices to Sammy's in-depth research. All genres, from hard bop to be-bop, vocal jazz, must instrumental, free jazz, and everything between is covered in one way or another and given Sammy's forensic eye. There is social commentary and discussions of careers in jazz music. The musical background of those in the book is rich and diverse.
Critics comment:
"This new book by Sammy Stein is a highly individual take on…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in psychology, religious experiences, and mindfulness?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about psychology, religious experiences, and mindfulness.

Psychology Explore 1,815 books about psychology
Religious Experiences Explore 9 books about religious experiences
Mindfulness Explore 112 books about mindfulness