Phenomenology and the Possibility of Religious Experience

Ronald L. Mercer jr. 1
  • 1 Oakland City , University, United States of America

Abstract

Work in what has been known as the theological turn in French phenomenology describes the way in which human beings are always, already open to a religious encounter. This paper will focus on Levinas as a proper transcendental phenomenologist as would be characterized by parts of Husserl and Husserl’s last assistant Eugen Fink. What Levinas does in his phenomenology of the face/other (which gets tied up in religious language) is to describe an absolute origin out of which the subject arises. This point of origin structures the self in such a way as to always, already be open to that which overflows experience and, thus, makes possible the very experience of an encounter with the numinous. Such an approach to religious experience for which I am arguing simply takes Levinas at his word when he declares “The idea of God is an idea that cannot clarify a human situation. It is the inverse that is true.” (“Transcendence and Height”) Understanding the structure of the subject as open to that which cannot be reduced/totalized/ encapsulated is to recognize that the human situation is ready for the possibility of religious experience.

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Open Theology is an international Open Access, peer-reviewed academic journal that welcomes contributions written in English addressing religion in its various forms and aspects: historical, theological, sociological, psychological, and other.

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