Examine the variety of forms of religious experiences (30 marks)
A religious experience is an encounter with the Divine. It is a non-empirical occurrence that brings with it an awareness of something beyond ourselves. In her book the ‘Evidential forces of religious experiences’, C.F. Davis identifies six types of religious experiences these are Mystical, Revelatory, Quasi-Sensory, Regenerative, Interpretive and Numinous. The three that I will be looking at are; Mystical experiences, Visions (quasi-sensory) and Conversions (regenerative).
The first one I will be looking at is Mystical experiences, this is the closest a human can come to meeting the Divine, it is a ‘unions and communion with God’ and alters the state of consciousness bringing people to claim a new awareness of ultimate reality. William James is his book “The Varieties of Religious Experience” identified four types of religious experiences these are Ineffability which is becoming aware of something but not being able to describe the experience in words e.g. St Teresa of Avila “I wish I could give a description… but when I try to discover a way of doing so, I find it impossible”. Another one of William James’ 4 types is Noetic Quality which is mind gaining knowledge and the understanding of a deeper truth e.g. the Holy Spirit, as well as Transiency which is the time the religious experience lasts (between two minutes and two hours) this does not however reflect the significance of the experience. Lastly, Passivity, which is losing self-control and obtaining a different personality an example of this is the Holy Laughter experienced in Arizona.
F.C. Happold further categorised William James’ four types of religious experiences to two which are the mysticism of love and union and the mysticism of knowledge and understanding. The mysticism of love and union is when people long to escape from loneliness and the feeling of being separate, the individual wishes to have a union with God and experiences a loss of self-e.g. the Whirling Dervishes. The mysticism of knowledge and understanding is the idea that people are trying to find the ‘secret of the universe’ which links to W. James Noetic Quality- mind gaining knowledge and understanding.
Another type of religious experience is visions. This is seeing, feeling…