Religious Experience Analysis

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The phenomenon of religious experience covers a broad spectrum of events, but is generally described as a supernatural, transcendental occurrence interpreted to be of a spiritual nature by the individual experiencing it. It is, however, difficult for a specific definition to be reached, as religious experiences manifest themselves in a variety of ways, whether through a widespread atmosphere of intense emotion such as the Toronto Blessing, or quiet personal revelations or visions, such as those of Bernadette Soubirous or the original visionaries of Medjugorje. The diversity of these events allows humanity to investigate what it means to be human from various standpoints and search for the reasons why such apparently inexplicable events occur.…show more content…
Mystical experiences evoke a sense of religious rapture in the individual, sometimes manifesting in an outpouring of joy such as in the Toronto Blessing wherein those affected displayed “holy drunkenness” and elated dancing. American philosopher William James also asserts that religious ‘visions’ are from an “unseen order” which is otherwise outside of the realm of human understanding and sense perception. In ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience’ (1902) he suggests four characteristics that all religious experiences generally exhibit. The first and potentially easiest characteristic to recognise is that of the ineffable. The recipient of the experience goes through an ordeal which cannot be accurately explained. They are often believed to be so great that they are too powerful for verbal description, yet the person themselves recognises that it is something that must be shared. Thus, typically descriptions that are offered do not satisfy other listeners, as they seem completely meaningless to anyone except the recipient. St Teresa of Avila, for example, claimed to have experienced Jesus through visions, and acknowledges that “I wish I could give a description of… what I learned, but, when I try to discover a way of doing so, I find it impossible”. Their recognition that the power of the “other” is too immense for words seems to be more believable than simply stating that they cannot explain it, as it implies they have been entirely emotionally overwhelmed by inhuman powers, rather than that it is simply too strange to explain, like the strangeness of a
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