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Qualia of God: Phenomenological Materiality in Introspection, with a Reference to Advaita Vedanta

Olga Louchakova-Schwartz
  • University of California at Davis; Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, Berkeley; Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley; United States of America
Published Online: 2017-05-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2017-0021


Applying Michel Henry’s philosophical framework to the phenomenological analysis of religious experience, the author introduces a concept of material introspection and a new theory of the constitution of religious experience in phenomenologically material interiority. As opposed to ordinary mental self-scrutiny, material introspection happens when the usual outgoing attention is reverted onto embodied self-awareness in search of mystical self-knowledge or union with God. Such reversal posits the internal field of consciousness with the self-disclosure of phenomenological materiality. As shown by the example of Vedantic self-inquiry, material introspection is conditioned on the attitude ‘I “see” myself’ and employs reductions which relieve phenomenological materiality from the structuring influence of intentionality; the telos of material introspection is expressed by the inward self-transcendence of intentional consciousness into purified phenomenological materiality. Experience in material introspection is constituted by the self-affection and self-luminosity of phenomenological materiality; experience is recognized as religious due to such essential properties as the capacity of being self-fulfilled, and specific qualitative “what it’s like”(s). Drawing on more than 5000 live accounts of internal religious experience, it is shown that introspective attention can have different trajectories, producing, within a temporal extension of material introspection, different spatial modifications of embodied self-awareness and a variety of corresponding religious experiences.

Keywords: phenomenology; comparative philosophy of religion; religious experience; introspection; subjectivity; embodiment; self-awareness; intentionality; Michel Henry; self-inquiry; Vedanta; Christian mysticism


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About the article

Received: 2017-03-14

Accepted: 2017-04-26

Published Online: 2017-05-18

Published in Print: 2017-01-26

Citation Information: Open Theology, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2017-0021. Export Citation

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