Essays In Phenomenological Theology

Essays In Phenomenological Theology-64
380.) If someone takes God's goodness to be displayed in, say, a mountain landscape, then the phenomenology of their experience can perhaps be set down easily enough, at least in some central respects; but what about the case where an experience is said to be more directly of God (the case that Alston intends to pick out by the expression “mystical perception”)?

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So there are “spiritual sensations” of touch, sight, taste, smell and hearing that are taken to be in some way analogous to their counterparts in ordinary sense perception.

As Nelson Pike (1992) notes, this tradition has commonly distinguished three varieties of experience of God: those associated with the “prayer of quiet,” the “prayer of union,” and “rapture,” in order of increasing intimacy of acquaintance with God.

Or are such experiences saturated with tradition-specific doctrinal assumptions?

Are reports of religious experiences in central cases best read as doctrine-inspired interpretations of the subjective character of the experience, rather than as accounts of their phenomenology?

And does the affective phenomenology of religious experience do any epistemic work? William Alston (1991, Chapter 1) has noted that we don't have a well-developed vocabulary for the description of the phenomenal qualia of “mystical” experience.

(Compare William James's suggestion that “mystical” experiences are “ineffable”: 1902, p.This entry examines the relevance of phenomenological considerations for the concept of God (or the sacred otherwise characterised) and the question of what sort of rational sense is implied in the adoption of a religious point of view.The discussion distinguishes various perspectives on the subjective character of religious experience, and examines the relation between religious experience and experience of the material world.Some commentators have sought to distinguish between the component of a report of a religious experience that is a record of its phenomenology and the component that involves an interpretation of the experience according to some favoured doctrinal scheme (Stace 1961).As Pike notes, it is possible in principle that whole traditions of mystical experience have been more concerned to communicate the doctrinal implications of such experience rather than its phenomenological content (1992, p.And if there is, do we have a reliable vocabulary to describe it?Is there a phenomenology of mystical experience which crosses faith boundaries?And each of these phases of the spiritual life, it has been said, is to be associated with its own distinctive phenomenology.For example, speaking of the “prayer of quiet,” Pike comments that in such experiences phenomenologically, God is located in that place within the body where one normally experiences oneself to be. the spiritual sensations involved are akin to ordinary auditory and olfactory perceptions as well as to ordinary perceptions of heat.It also considers the interaction between experience, conceptual framework (including religious doctrine) and practice, and the contribution, if any, of emotional feelings to the epistemic significance of religious experience.In all of these ways, an appreciation of the “phenomenology of religion” proves central to an understanding of what is involved practically, cognitively and affectively in a religious way of life.


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