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Open Theology

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What Counts as a ‘Religious Experience?’: Phenomenology, Spirituality, and the Question of Religion

Neal DeRoo
Published Online: 2018-08-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2018-0022

Abstract

This paper: a) offers a phenomenology of the religious that challenges the assumption that “religious experience” is primarily to be understood as a type of experience, called ‘religious’ experience, which is distinct from other (i.e., ‘non-religious’) experiences; and b) traces out some implications of this for phenomenological and other scholarly approaches to religion. To achieve these aims, the paper begins by explaining the phenomenological claim-found most explicitly in Husserl and Merleau- Ponty-that all experiences are expressive of a certain kind of spirit. This account of spirit, when applied to the phenomenological understanding of the ‘religious,’ allows us to distinguish between religiosity (as a transcendental structure), religions (as dynamic forces that express that structure), and religious phenomena (as concrete phenomena that express religions). In turn, this tri-partite distinction allows us to explain how religiosity leads to the development of religion in a way that suggests that ‘the religious’ is best conceived as a particular dimension of all experience. In that light, two major implications for the study of religion emerge from the phenomenology of the religious provided in this paper: 1) the realm of possible subjects of study is greatly expanded; while 2) the proper object of study is narrowed and clarified

Keywords: Phenomenology of religion; Husserl; Caputo; Schilbrack; expression; spirit; religiosity; what is religion

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About the article

Received: 2018-05-22

Accepted: 2018-07-30

Published Online: 2018-08-25


Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 292–307, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2018-0022.

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© by Neal DeRoo, published by De Gruyter. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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