Religious Experience and Revelation

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A2 Philosophy Religious Experience and Revelation

Resource summary

Religious Experience and Revelation
  1. Direct
    1. Encounter God directly
      1. Paul on the road to Damascus met the risen Jesus
        1. Otto: "an apprehension of the wholly other."
          1. It is an ineffable experience, a Mysterium Tremendum
          2. An awareness, feeling or sensation that is directly in the mind
          3. Indirect
            1. The mind of the individual focuses on God
              1. People are inspired by the beauty of nature
              2. Swinburme
                1. Public Experiences
                  1. Ordinary
                    1. Natural events have reigious significance
                    2. Extraordinary
                      1. Experiences that violate the workings of nature
                    3. Private Experiences
                      1. Describable
                        1. Dreams
                        2. Non-desribable
                          1. God is revealed beyond description
                          2. Non-specific
                            1. Looking st the world from a religious perspective
                        3. Visions
                          1. God or the divine is 'seen' or 'observed'. Information may be relealed
                            1. Teresa of Avila

                              Annotations:

                              • "saw Christ at my side - or, to put it better, I was conscious of Him, for neither with the eyes of the body or of the soul did I see anything"
                              1. Intellectual experience, meaning what is seen is an experience rather than observation
                              2. St Bernadette of Lourdes

                                Annotations:

                                • She was told to dig in the ground at the feet of Mary. Upon doing so, she discovered a mountain spring.
                                1. Corporeal vision because Bernadette sees Mary as a form or image
                                2. Joseph

                                  Annotations:

                                  • Told in a dream not to be afraid of marrying MAry even though she is pregnant.
                                  1. Imaginative vision, a message from God through a dream
                                3. Voices
                                  1. Communication of knowledge
                                    1. Usually specific

                                      Annotations:

                                      • For example when God calls Samuel to be a prophet. In the baptism of Jesus when God's voice declares Jesus as his son.
                                      1. The voice is disembodied and shows the presence of God
                                        1. The voice communicates a relalation from God

                                          Annotations:

                                          • The message is said to be noetic, meaning it reveals something og God and God's wishes.
                                          1. The voice is authoritative and passess on God's authority

                                            Annotations:

                                            • "You are my beloved Son, with you i am well pleased." (Mark 1:11)
                                      2. Teresa of Avila had criteria to determine if the voice is God
                                        1. 1. Does the experience fit in with Christian Church teaching?
                                          1. 2. Does the experience leave you at peace with the world and God?
                                        2. Conversion
                                          1. A complete inner transformation that is empirically verifiable through the chaged or reformed behaviour of the individual in their life
                                            1. Edwin Starbuck

                                              Annotations:

                                              • Conversion experiences are not really that dissimilar to the normal phases of identity that people go through.
                                            2. Corporate Religious Experiences
                                              1. Experience that happens simultaneously to a number of people
                                                1. Toronto Blessing

                                                  Annotations:

                                                  • January 1994 at the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church. Participants in the conferences and meetings have reported healings, incidents of personal transformation and a greater awareness of God's love in their lives.  Leaders of the meetings and participants claim that these are physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit's presencce and power.
                                                  1. Hank Hanegraaff
                                                2. Are Religious Experiences Veridical of God?
                                                  1. People, generally speaking are more likely to believe something if it has been experienced.
                                                    1. Jonathon Edwards

                                                      Annotations:

                                                      • "The degree in which our experience is productive in practice shows the degree in which our evidence is spiritual and divine."
                                                    2. Swinburne
                                                      1. Two criteria for studying religious experiences
                                                        1. The Principle of 'Credulity'
                                                          1. With other things being equal, we have good reason to believe what a person tells us
                                                            1. There are three reasons why one could disbelieve evidence
                                                              1. If we have strong reasons to challenge God's existence, it undermines the experience as 'religious'
                                                                1. Evidence could suggest it was not caused by God
                                                                  1. There may be reasons to believe the person was mistaken, e.g. under the influence
                                                                2. The Principle of 'Testimony'
                                                                  1. It is reasonable to believe that what someone tells you
                                                                    1. You may find it unusual or investigate further, but wouldn't automatically reject what they say
                                                              2. William Alston
                                                                1. Whether it is possible to speak of a person experiencing God and gaining knowledge from the experience
                                                                  1. He argued that in normal life the evidence of something is what you can gather from experience
                                                                    1. E.g. referring to something you've observed via senses. You are not doubted because others may have shared in that
                                                                      1. Religious experiences are sense perceptions and there is no need to reject is just because it may seem unusual
                                                                        1. Other sense observations can determine something's verifiability, so can we really reject people's religious experiences on the same gounds?
                                                                    2. William James
                                                                      1. Aims to survey the various types of religious experiences as a psychologist and to present the findings and its implications for philosophy in his work 'The Varieties of Religious Experience'
                                                                        1. "the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine"
                                                                          1. These feelings, acts and experiences are shaped, and the revelation of facts and knowledge aid this. Religion requires intellectual commitment, for the receiver to actively engage with the requirements of religious belief
                                                                            1. For James, it's important to note that when it comes to engaging with religion, we do not simply interpret existing facts but may even be given new ones

                                                                              Annotations:

                                                                              • "Religion... is not a mere illumination of facts already...given, not a mere passion, like love, which views things in a rosier light. It is indeed that... but it is something more, namely a postulator of new facts as well."
                                                                              1. The 'prothets of all the different religions' for example, can certainly help construct our perceptions an outlook towards faith, and in turn sustain it. Those among us not touched by these experiences and traditions will stand outside of them, noting that they can be used to validate a variety of beliefs.
                                                                          2. Religious experience stands at the heart of religion. Teaching, practices and attitudes are secondary and develop later as individuals commit themselves
                                                                            1. James suggested that religious experiences were events which were 'solitary' and in which individuals experiences the divine or God.
                                                                              1. James viewed conversion as a transformation from a divided or imperfect self to a more unified consciousness
                                                                                1. Some felt these experiences were a psychological disorder, though James challenged this and placed experiences as central to understanding religion
                                                                              2. Any mystical experience, which he understood to be the direct revelation of God and union with the divine, contain four characteristics
                                                                                1. Ineffability

                                                                                  Annotations:

                                                                                  • Experiences that are beyond the capacity of words to describe.
                                                                                  1. Noetic

                                                                                    Annotations:

                                                                                    • Experience is a state of knowledge, but a type of knowledge beyond normal experience.
                                                                                    1. Transciency

                                                                                      Annotations:

                                                                                      • The experiences in themselves last only the briefest of time, but their effects are life-changing.
                                                                                      1. Passivity

                                                                                        Annotations:

                                                                                        • People affected feel as if their own will is in abeyance (been set aside) as if in the grip of a superior power.
                                                                                      2. James often cited the case study of Teresa of Avila
                                                                                        1. Conclusions
                                                                                          1. James did not accept religious experiences to be unquestionably true, but that they could be indicative of God.
                                                                                            1. Religious experiences are psychological phenomena that occur in our brains but may have a supernatural element as well as a physical one.
                                                                                              1. Empiricism

                                                                                                Annotations:

                                                                                                • The effects of religious experiences produces empirical evidence. This evidence points towards a higher reality beyond what we see and hear.
                                                                                                1. Pluralism

                                                                                                  Annotations:

                                                                                                  • Experiences were similar across different faiths.
                                                                                                  1. Pragmatism

                                                                                                    Annotations:

                                                                                                    • The truth was not always fixed and truth is determined by what is of great value for us.
                                                                                                2. Challenges and expansions of James' Argument
                                                                                                  1. "Where there is contradiction there cannot be truth"
                                                                                                    1. "Religious experiences are the product of a faulty mind"
                                                                                                      1. "In the natural sciences and industrial arts, it never occurs to anyone to try to refute opinions by showing up their author's neurotic constitution."
                                                                                                        1. Dr. H. M. Maudsley

                                                                                                          Annotations:

                                                                                                          • "What rights have we to believe Nature is under any obligation to do her work by complete minds only?"
                                                                                                      2. "Religious experiences are induced"
                                                                                                        1. "The drunken consciousness is one bit of the mystic consciousness, and our total opinion of it must find its place in our opinion of that larger whole"
                                                                                                        2. "Religious experiences are emotionally driven and no more that a personal response"
                                                                                                          1. There is no problem with it being emotional, and establishes the connection between thought and action. Feelings associated with religion and the conduct inspired by those feelings are similar
                                                                                                            1. Irrespective of the religion studied you would find two universal areas
                                                                                                              1. A certain uneasiness
                                                                                                                1. The solution to this
                                                                                                            2. Wider Ideas
                                                                                                              1. J.L. Mackie
                                                                                                                1. Schleiermacher
                                                                                                                  1. Buber
                                                                                                                    1. Jung
                                                                                                                      1. Kant
                                                                                                                        1. Alston
                                                                                                                          1. Broad
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