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Flashcards in Religious Experience: Altered States of Consciousness Deck (13)
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religious experience

- any type of experience that the subject deems religiously significant
- "sensational, emotional, conceptual thoughts, institutions, hallucinations, dreams, ecstatic states of great joy and moments of severe calm"
- subjective and can manifest on various emotional and psychological levels
- ex: stigmata- experiencing what Jesus did when he was crucified (pain in palms, feet)


Max Weber

Emissary prophets: divine has called upon them to reveal a message to the people
- how to worship
- how people should conduct their lives
- ex: Moses bringing 10 commandments, Jesus

Exemplary prophets: tasked to help others achieve their own experiences
- have access to great divine
- ex: Shaw men


types of experiences

Revelation experience:
- an experience characterized by the subject becoming "an agent or spokesperson of the divine"
- 1) communal revelations: share with a community
- 2) personal revelations: for the self

Ecstatic experience:
- involves intimate contact with god(s), goddesses, or spirits
- ecstasy comes from a Greek word that translates to "to stand outside ones self"
- possession by a supernatural force
- out of body experiences, journeys to other realms/worlds


altered states of consciousness (ASC)

- religious experiences are studied as an ASC with religious significance
- ASC: any mental state that differs from a normal mental state
- achieving an ASC is important for various religious rituals
- ex: sleeping, preparing to pray, alcohol, depression/anxiety


ASC: characteristics

alterations in thinking: changes in concentration, attention, or memory

disturbed time sense: acceleration or slowing of time

loss of control: feeling of helplessness or relinquishing control (possession)

change in emotional expression: sudden changes in emotions

body image change: blurring of body and mind; out of body experience

perceptual distortions: hallucinations, heightened senses

change in meaning/significance: increases significances in experiences

sense of ineffable: indescribable; cannot put experience into words

feelings of rejuvenation: feeling of being reborn; recharged, increase in confidence


factors that cause ASC

1) reduction of stimulation or repetitive stimulation
- solitary confinement, sleep
2) increased sensory stimulation or strenuous activity
- spirit possession
- running, dancing
- sympathetic system arousal: overload results in the orientation association structure being shut down
3) increased and sustained mental alertness
- concentration, focus
4) decreased alertness or passive mind
- watching TV, meditation, daydreaming relaxation
5) alterations in body or nervous system
- fasting, dehydration, sleep deprivation, drugs


ASC: fasting

abstaining from eating food and drinking liquids over a period of time
- alters body chemistry
- disciplines the mind
- cleansing


biological basis

religious experience or migraines?
a result of over stimulation?
- affects the sympathetic nervous system and shuts down the brain
- ex. the orientation association structure is an area of the brain that shuts down during "increased stimulation"
(brain structure that enables us to sense the boundaries of our body and the world around us)
- this "shut down" yields the feeling of oneness with our surroundings. A unity state of feeling
what about the reverse? can religious experience or other ASC affect our brain?
- meditation and the brain
- depression and the brain
- Doing Time, Doing Vipassana (video)


whirling dervish

- the performance is a form of meditation, leading to ASC
- performance becomes the vessel to receive divine love and distribute the love to all those around him/her
- flowing dresses, spin clockwise


drug induced ASC

- various religious traditions use drugs to achieve an ASC
- drugs seen as bridges to make contact with supernatural powers
- ritual setting is important (difference between recreational and ritual uses)


drug induces ASC: Native American Church

- in the U.S the government's official policy was to destroy Native American culture and force their assimilation
- religion used to cope, revive tradition and heal from trauma
- The Native American Church formed in response (1918)
- Peyotism: the ritual use of peyote, a hallucinogenic cactus:
- peyote allows members to see the world through the eyes of the supernatural
- Huichol community


drug induces AS: Rastafarianism

- Afro Caribbean
- one god -Jah
- see the former emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie as the messiah - the second coming of Christ
- an example of a revitalization movement - Black liberation (spread by Jamaican people and Reggae)
- smoke Cannabis, ganga, as a means to understand the self, the universe, and God
- ASC to activism
- philosophy of ital levity: rejection of western consumerism and living in harmony with nature


cannabis in Muslim world

cannabis used to treat various ailments as early as 750 CE
- scientific inquiry
- religious debate
alcohol vs Hashish (resin of cannabis)
- Fatimid Empire (Cairo), under Imam-Caliph al-Hakim, issued an edict prohibiting alcohol but not Hashish
- Hashish spread across the Muslim world
- substance abuse -- state response
12th century: some Sufi tariqas started using Hashish in rituals to become one with God
- Cannabis in Muslim poetry