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Flashcards in Religious experience Deck (27):

What did William James believe about religious experience?

In studying religious experience, James argues that we are studying the very heart of religion, whereas studying beliefs and practices are merely second-hand religion, they come after the experience.


Does William James accept that there can be a psychological or physiological explanation to religious experience ?

William James did accept that there can be a psychological or physiological explanation to religious experience. However he argued that this may not be the whole explanation. Even if there is a natural cause of the experience, there may also be supernatural behind it.


What did James think was important when judging if religious experiences are genuine?

What is important when we judge whether experiences are genuine is not what causes them (their root), but the effects that they have (their fruit).


What is an example of the effects of a religious experience?

Even though it is possible that Paul's conversion was an epileptic episode, the changed life he led after the experience counts as evidence towards it being a religious experience.


What is the first characteristic of a religious experience?

They are ineffable: The experience is beyond proper description. Words cannot express what was felt.


What is the second characteristic of a religious experience?

They have a noetic quality: the person who has the experience feels that they have gained new knowledge- that couldn't be gained from everyday sense experience.


What is the third characteristic of a religious experience?

The experience is transient It passes with time, usually lasting for half an hour or less but the effects of the experience could last a lifetime.


What is the fourth characteristic of a religious experience?

Passivity: the idea that the person having the experience is not taking the leading role; they are being acted upon.


What is pragmatism?

A philosophical movement that argues that a theory must be treated as true if it works in practice. hence given the effects of religious experiences, we ought to conclude that they are probably true.


What is empiricism?

James is committed to an empirical approach. Although we are not able to empirically verify the experience, the result of the experience is empirical data.


What example is used to show how the result of a religious experience is empirical data?

If a former criminal is now living a good and religious life following a conversion experience, this can be observed by our senses.


What is pluralism?

James' research into experiences in different faiths led him to conclude that there are similarities. These experiences may be interpreted differently dependent on our own views and belief systems but if they produce positive effects then they are in some sense true. Hence there is truth in all faiths.


What is the first thing that religious experience might show?

That the world we see is part of a more spiritual universe from which it gets its main significance.


What is the second thing that religious experience might show?

That to unite with this higher universe is our true end or purpose.


What is the third thing that religious experience might show?

That prayer or meditation is a real process where spiritual energy flows and produces psychological and material effects within the world we see.


What is the fourth thing that religious experience might show?

That religion seems to provide people with a new zest for life and/or provides purpose.


What is the fifth thing that a religious experience might show?

That an assurance of safety and a sense of peace and love in relationships to others is also produced.


What is mystical experience?

Mystical experiences are experiences where the recipient feels a sense of ‘union’ with the Divine.


What are Happold's conclusions on mysticism?

-Mystics understand this world as only part of the ultimate reality; The world comes from a 'Divine Ground'.
-This 'Divine Ground' can be known intuitively but not rationally.
- We are comprised of our 'ego' and our 'internal self' it is this latter aspect of us that has the divine spark, the ability to connect with deeper truths.
- Our purpose is to discover our true 'eternal self' and unite with the 'Divine Ground'.


What are Otto's views on numinous experiences?

Rudolf Otto describes what he calls numinous experiences. These experiences are experiences of awe and wonder in the presence of an almighty God. In it, we are not so much united with God but aware of our own insignificance in his presence.


What phrase does Otto use to describe numinous experience?

Mysterium: tremendem et fascinans.


What does Mysterium: tremendem et fascinans mean ?

That numinous experiences are mysterious, tremendous and terrifying and fascinating and compelling.


What is centre of energy?

A conversion involves someone altering their beliefs and way of life. William James refers to this as the shifting of energies. An example of this may be that our entire thoughts are taken over by rock music, but this is gradually replaced with passion for politics.


How does psychology link with conversion?

William James' views on conversion fit with his general ideas on religious experience. There is undoubtedly a psychological explanation for conversion experience - James suggests that that the subconscious may be active in a similar way to when someone is in a hypnotic state- but this psychological explanation need not be the whole explanation.


What is numinous experience?

An experience of awe and wonder in the presence of an almighty God.


What is conversion experience?

An experience which causes a sudden or gradual change in someone's belief system.


Can the effects of a religious experience prove its existence?

The effects of a religious experience can be significant and often highly positive. William James argues that this 'judging of the fruit' is the only possible test fro religious experience.