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Open Theology

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The Sound of a Small Whisper: Ordinary Religious Experience

Robert Kugelmann
Published Online: 2017-05-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2017-0020


An ordinary religious experience does not entail an overwhelming sense of the Divine; it is not a “numinous” experience. It is instead easily ignored. In a phenomenological psychological inquiry into such a religious experience, both the noema, the “what” experienced, and the noesis, the mode of givenness of the experience, manifested themselves in distinctive ways. The paper examines a simple experience of having been guided in making a decision. The guidance was recognized only at the moment of realization. The realization revealed the decision to have been part of a larger drama that transcended the immediate experience. The “world” of this moment of realization included sensing that the sky above-as an “elemental”-was a dome, with allusions to the Noah story. Even at the time, this perception was not experienced as literal, but as symbolic. The social, historical, and theological contexts for the possibility of this experience receive attention. Theological as well as psychological reflection indicate such an experience continues to happen, in memory and thought, and even in action, long after the initial moment. Essential to the meaning of the experience is an admonition to transcend egocentricity.

Keywords: phenomenology; religious experience; elemental; numinous; symbol; illusion


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About the article

Received: 2017-02-09

Accepted: 2017-04-28

Published Online: 2017-05-18

Published in Print: 2017-01-26

Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 249–256, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2017-0020.

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© 2017. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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