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Open Theology

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Objective, Intersubjective Mystical Relationships: Justification and Reality

Michael Barber
Published Online: 2019-07-15 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2019-0011


Amplifying the idea of religious experience as occurring within an encompassing “religious province of meaning” and developing the personal character of the experience of God in the Abrahamic religious traditions, this paper argues that mystics in those traditions experience God “objectively.” Their experience of God is that of experiencing God as what Alfred Schutz called a “Consociate,” despite the lack of God’s bodily presence. Such a phenomenological account of religious experience converges with the description by analytic philosopher William Alston of religious experience as an objectively given, non-sensual perception of God, even though the personal Consociate model is preferable to the perceptual one, given the Abrahamic traditions. Conversely, Alston and Alvin Plantinga show how ascending levels of rational justification of religious experience are possible with reference to the experiential level, and such levels can be accommodated within the Schutzian “theoretical province of meaning” in its collaboration with the religious province. Both the Consociate and Schelerian/personalist accounts of God resist any explaining away of religious experience as mere phantasy, and the religious finite province of meaning provides a more comprehensive explanation of religious experience than either Alston’s or Plantinga’s approaches. However, the strategy of envisioning religious experience as taking place within a finite province of meaning is more noetic in character than Scheler’s view of an eidetically elaborated noematic absolute reality that precedes the rise of consciousness itself and that counterbalances the noetic portrayal of religious experience.

Keywords: Experience of God as a consociate; the personal God of the Abrahamic religious traditions; non-sensual perception of God; justification of religious experience; finite provinces of meaning; the religious province of meaning; absolute reality; phenomenology of religious experience


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About the article

Received: 2019-04-17

Accepted: 2019-06-05

Published Online: 2019-07-15

Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 5, Issue 1, Pages 198–216, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2019-0011.

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© 2019 Michael Barber, by De Gruyter. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License. BY 4.0

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