William James and the Varieties of Religious experience

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William James and the Varieties of Religious experience
Religion and religious experience?
Religious experience stands at the very heart of religion
Religious teachings, practices and attitudes are second hand religion
It is the actual experiences themselves that can be regarded as true
Varieties of religious experience
James analysed many forms of religious experience
View conversion as a transformation from a divided or imperfect self
to a more unified consciousness
Concentrates on descriptions and first hand accounts of experiences
Sceptics that view them as examples of psychological disorder do
not understand religion
James' criteria for mystical experience
He recognised the difficulty of providing a definition for this so he
decided that there was 4 characteristics to this
1. Ineffable: experience is beyond proper description= no adequate
description in words
2.Noetic:experiences imparts or reveals knowledge about God
3. Transient: temporary experience although its effects may last a
long time
4. Passive: the experience is not initiated by the mystic but rather
they have sense that something is acting upon them
James' conclusions
Just because religious experiences are psychological phenomena that
occur in our brains, it doesn't mean that they are just this
They may also have a supernatural element
We all interpret our experiences based on our senses which lead us
to understanding the world
Religious experiences seem to be all similar in different faiths
Truth can be found in many faiths
Truth is not fixed and that what is true is whatever has great value
for us
Truth can be found in religion especially if we value religious


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