RS Religious experiences

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  • Created by: Fiona
  • Created on: 01-10-12 11:10

Willliam James' Definitions


Passive - Happens without the person making it happen

Ineffable - Cannot be described adequately in words

Noetic - Imparting knowledge

Transcient - Fleeting, brief experience

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Corporeal - Externally present - not in a dream or imagination

e.g. Muhammad and Jibril

Intellectual - Brings knowledge and understanding from God

e.g. Juliana of Norwich

Imaginary - Seen in the minds-eye, or in a dream

e.g. Jacob's Ladder

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Volitional - A person decides that they wish to make spiritual changes in their life, so they go about doing the things necessary to bring this about

Self-Surrender - When someone comes to the realisation that their life is wrong, sinful or worthless. They realise that they have done all that they can to make it right but it has not worked, so they give themselves over to God.

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What is a mystical experience?

When someone has an encounter with God

Seeing the union of the self with the universe as well as the individuality of the self

Altered state of consciousness

The achievement of higher understanding

Has an effect in one's life

Example - St Therese of Avila - When she was 20 she ran away from home to become a nun. She was very sick throughtout her adult life, and she experienced periods of religious ecstasy.One account she made stated that a Seraph (angel) 'drove the firery point of a golden lance through her'.

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Ways to achieve a mystical experience

Use of pschyotropic substances




Breathing techniques


Percussive sound

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Sigmund Freud

Believed people were completely material. This is a significant approach as it ignores our metaphysical existence.

Suggested the urge some people felt towards religion was no more than psychological obsession.

Saw religious experiences as illusions

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V.S. Ramachan

Best known for his work in the fields of behavioural neurology and psychophysics.

Carried out extensive research related to temporal lobe epilepsy from which he concluded that there is important evidence linking the temporal lobes to religious experience.

Set up an experiment to compare the brains of people with and without temporal lobe epilepsy.

Decided to measure his patient's changes in skin resistance when they looked at different types of imagery.

Temporal lope patients produced a dramatic changed in their skin resistance when they were shown any type of religious imagery, much greater than people not suffering from the condition.

Concluded that famous religious figures such as St Paul could have had the condition.

He was not unwilling to accept that it may be that God exists and has placed the temporal lobe within the brain as a means of communication with humans.

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Michael Persinger

He is a cognitive neuroscience reseacher who thinks that the temporal lobes have a significant role in religious experiences, and argues that they are no more than the brain responding to external stimuli.

Claims that by stimulating the temporal lobes with a unique machine he can artificially induce in almost anyone a moment that feels like a genuine religious experience.

Developed a helmet which produces weak magnetic fields across the hemispheres of the brain, specfically the temporal lobe.

Over 900 people who have taken part in the experiment claim to have some form of 'religious' experience.

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