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

  • 1 The King‘s University,, Edmonton, Canada

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

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Barber, Michael. Religion and Humor as Emancipating Provinces of Meaning. Dordrecht: Springer, 2017.

  • Barber, Michael. “The Finite Province of Religious Meaning and the Appresentative Mindset,” delivered at “The Symbolic Construction of Reality,” 3rd Meeting of the International Schutz Circle for Phenomenology and Interpretive Social Science, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan, May 6-8, 2016. Page numbers refer to author’s unpublished manuscript.

  • Bergson, Henri. Mind-Energy: Lectures and Essays. Translated by H. Wildon Carr. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1920.

  • Caputo, John D. The Insistence of God: A Theology of Perhaps. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013.

  • Caputo, John D. The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion with/out Religion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.

  • Caputo, John D. The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006.

  • Dahl, Espen. Phenomenology and the Holy: Religious Experience after Husserl. London: SCM Press, 2010.

  • DeRoo, Neal. Futurity in Phenomenology: Promise and Method in Husserl, Levinas and Derrida. Fordham University Press, 2013.

  • DeRoo, Neal. “Spiritual Expression and the Promise of Phenomenology,” in The Subject(s) of Phenomenology: New Approaches to Husserl edited by Iulian Apostelescu, Verdran Grahovac, and Patrick Flack. New York: Springer, forthcoming.

  • Derrida, Jacques. “Faith and Knowledge: The Two Sources of ‘Religion’ at the Limits of Reason Alone” in Acts of Religion, edited by Gil Anidjar, 40-101. New York and London: Routledge, 2002.

  • Derrida, Jacques. Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry: An Introduction. Translated by John P. Leavey. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1989.

  • Derrida, Jacques. The Problem of Genesis in Husserl’s Philosophy. Translated by Marian Hobson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

  • Derrida, Jacques. Voice and Phenomena: An Introduction to the Problem of the Sign in Husserl’s Phenomenology. Translated by Leonard Lawlor. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2010.

  • de Vries, Hent. “Introduction: Why Still ›Religion‹?” in Religion: Beyond a Concept, edited by Hent de Vries, 1-98. New York: Fordham University Press, 2008.

  • Dooyeweed, Herman. A New Critique of Theoretical Thought. Three Volumes. Translated by David H. Freeman, William S. Young and Henry de Jongste. Philadelphia, PA: The Reformed and Presbyterian Publishing Company, 1953-1957.

  • Henry, Michel. “Material Phenomenology and language (or, pathos and language)” Translated by Leonard Lawlor. Continental Philosophy Review 32 [1999]: 343-365.

  • Husserl, Edmund. Analyses concerning Active and Passive Synthesis: Lectures on Transcendental Logic. Husserliana Band XI. Translated by A. J. Steinbock. Dordrecht/ Boston/London: Kluwer Academic, 2001.

  • Husserl, Edmund. Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology. Husserliana Band I. Translated by D. Cairns. Dordrecht/Boston/London: Springer, 1999.

  • Husserl, Edmund. Die Lebenswelt. Auslegungen der vorgegebenen Welt und ihrer Konstitution. Texte aus dem Nachlass (1916-1937). Husserliana Band XXXIX. Dordrecht: Springer, 2008.

  • Husserl, Edmund. Erste Philosophie. Zweiter Teil: Theorie der phänomenologischen Reduktion. Husserliana Band VIII. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1959.

  • Husserl, Edmund. Experience and Judgment: Investigations in a genealogy of logic. Edited by Ludwig Landgrebe. Translated by J.S. Churchill and K. Ameriks. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

  • Husserl, Edmund. Formal and Transcendental Logic. Translated by Dorion Cairns. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1969.

  • Husserl, Edmund. Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und Phänomenologischen Philosophie. Zweites Buch: Phänomenologische Untersuchungen zur Konstitution. Husserliana Band IV. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1952.

  • Husserl, Edmund. Logical Investigations. Translated by J.N. Findlay. London and New York: Routledge, 2001.

  • Husserl, Edmund. The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology. Translated by David Carr. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970.

  • Kwant, Remy C. The Phenomenology of Expression. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1969.

  • Landes, Donald A. Merleau-Ponty and the Paradoxes of Expression. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.

  • Lawlor, Leonard. Thinking through French Philosophy: The Being of the Question. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.

  • Maclaren, Kym. “Life is Inherently Expressive,” Chiasmi International VII [2005], 241-260.

  • McCutcheon, Russell T. Manufacturing Religion: The Discourse on Sui Generis Religion and the Politics of Nostalgia. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. “Eye and Mind.” Translated by Michael B. Smith in The Merleau- Ponty Aesthetics Reader: Philosophy and Painting edited by Galen A. Johnson, 121-149. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1993.

  • Merleau-Ponty, “Indirect Language and the Voices of Silence.” Translated by Michael B. Smith in The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader: Philosophy and Painting edited by Galen A. Johnson, 76-120. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1993.

  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Nature: Course Notes from the College de France. Edited by Dominique Seglard and translated by Robert Vallier. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2003.

  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception. Translated by Donald A. Landes. New York and London: Routledge, 2013.

  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The Visible and the Invisible. Translated by Alphonso Lingis. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1968.

  • Pulkinnen, Simo. “Lifeworld as an Embodiment of Spiritual Meaning: The Constitutive Dynamics of Activity and Passivity in Husserl,” in The Phenomenology of Embodied Subjectivity Contributions to Phenomenology 71, edited by R.T. Jensen and Dermot Moran. Cham: Springer 2013.

  • Schaefer, Donovon O. Religious Affects: Animality, Evolution and Power. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015.

  • Schilbrack, Kevin. Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto. Malden and Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2014.

  • Schilbrack, Kevin. “What isn’t Religion?” The Journal of Religion. 93:3 (July 2013), 291-318.

  • Schutz, Alfred. “On Multiple Realities.” In The Problem of Social Reality, vol. 1 of Collected Papers, edited by Maurice Natanson, 207-259. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1962.

  • Simmons, J. Aaron, and Stephen Minister (eds.). Reexamining Deconstruction and Determinate Religion: Toward a Religion with Religion. Duquesne University Press, 2012.

  • Simmons, J. Aaron. “Vagueness and Its Virtues: A Proposal for Renewing Philosophy of Religion.” In Philosophy of Religion After Religion, edited by Richard Amesbury and Michael Rodgers, 45-70. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018.

  • Steinbock, Anthony J. Home and Beyond: Generative Phenomenology after Husserl. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1995.

  • Smith, James K.A. Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation. Cultural Liturgies Volume 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2009.

  • Smith, James K.A. Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works. Cultural Liturgies Volume 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2013.

  • Smith, James K.A. “Re-Kanting Postmodernism? Derrida’s Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone” Faith and Philosophy 17.4 (2000): 558-71.

  • Smith, James K.A. You are what you Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2016.

  • Smith, Jonathan Z. Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

  • Supp-Montgomerie, Jenna. “Affect and the Study of Religion,” Religion Compass 9:10 [October 2015], 335-345.

  • Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2007.

  • Tylor, Edward Burnett. Religion in Primitive Culture. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1970.

  • Yancy, George. Black Bodies, White Gazes: The Continuing Significance of Race. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008.

OPEN ACCESS

Journal + Issues

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.

Search