Religious Experiences



Corporeal Visions

  • a form of empirical religious experiences
  • through our senses
  • e.g. Bernadette
    • had 18 visions of the Virgin Mary
    • visions were also auditory
  • e.g. Joan of Arc
    • experienced visions of Saints and angels from the age of 12
    • visions were accompanied by voices telling her to bring renewal to the French nation
    • said her visions were as real to her as seeing a real person with her 'bodily eyes'
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Imaginative Visions

  • Occur most frequently in dreams
  • Seen with the 'eye of the mind'
  • The experiencer hasno power to direct the experience
  • e.g. the Pharoah's Dream
    • Genesis 41
    • had a dream experience
    • aware it was no ordinary dream
    • knew it needed to be interpreted
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Intellectual Visions

  • They have no image; they are formless
  • Highest level of mystical union
  • e.g. St Teresa of Avila
    • had an experience of Jesus Christ
    • 'I had a most distinct feeling of his near presence' - saw Jesus not as an image but as a 'presence'
    • 'I saw nothing with the eyes of my body' - vision was not corporeal
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Mystical Experience


  • The experience only lasts for a short time but the effects are life changing
  • e.g. Somerset Maugham
    • 'I felt as though if I lasted a moment longer I should die'
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Mystical Experience

Noetic Quality

  • Provides insights into unobtainable knowledge
  • New knowledge is grasped through intuition and perception
  • e.g. Julian of Norwich
    • shown God loves even the smallest things
    • looked at something as small as a hazelnut in the palm of her hand
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Mystical Experience


  • The experiencer loses power to a more powerful being, namely God
  • Can sometimes cause individual to assume entirely different personalities
    • e.g. speaking in a different voice or language
  • e.g. St John of Cross
    • 'I abandoned and forgot myself'
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Mystical Experience


  • Awareness of something to be described but no way of doing so
  • e.g. Alfred Tennyson
    • 'I am ashamed of my feeble description'
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Mystical Experience

Extrovertive experience

  • An ordinary object transforms in some way and the person has a mystical experience through the object
  • e.g. looking at nature and it transforms in some way to make you feel united with the divine
  • Not true mystical experience as involves the senses
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Mystical Experience

Introvertive Experience

  • Use of senses is completely ended
  • Lose sense of self
  • True mystical experience as senses cease to exist and you lose your sense of self
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