Religious experience

  • Created by: philos
  • Created on: 06-01-20 18:52

Religious experience

A religious experience is ‘a subjective experience which is interpreted within religious framework’. 

The nature of religious experience

Corporeal visions

Form of empirical religious experience. Empirical experiences are those which we have through our senses. One of the most common forms of religious experience is that of seeing God through nature; e.g. through a sunset or scenery.


-          St Bernadette was 14 years old when she had visions of the Virgin Mary over several months.

-          At first the figure she saw did not even speak to her, but later Bernadette was given instructions by ‘The Immaculate Conception’ (The Virgin Mary), that the spring water at Lourdes had healing powers and that a chapel was to be built on the site.

Imaginative visions

A vision seen in the mind, usually through a dream experience. The vision is given to the experiencer without being perceived by the normal processes of sight.


Pharaoh’s dream (Genesis 41)

Pharaoh receives two powerful dream visions that he cannot interpret. In the first, seven thin cows devour seven fat cows, and in the second, seven withered ears of grain devour sever fat ears. Joseph tell the Pharaoh that the vision is a warning from God that seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of famine, so the importance of the vision is that Pharaoh should store surplus grain.

Intellectual visions

A vision without any visual image, where the experience is an illumination of the soul.

Illumination: Holy spirit illuminating mind with the truth. here , the vision illuminates the soul without any kind of image.


St. Teresa of Avila- recounts an experience of Jesus Christ.

‘I saw nothing with the eyes of the body’. Teresa goes on to explain that the light of an intellectual vision in an illumination of the understating of the soul.

The Numinous

The numinous is often described as the feeling of being in the presence of something greater.

Many testimonies from those claiming to have had a religious experience refer to a sense of being in the presence of an awesome power yet feeling distinctly separate from it; the word given to describe this feeling is numinous.

-          While many regard numinosity as a feature of religious experience, some classify it as a ‘type’ in its own right and contrast it with mystical experience.

-          The German theologian Rudolf Otto (1869-1937) used the term ‘numinous’ in The Idea of the Holy’ (1936), in referring to being in the presence of an awesome power.

-          He suggested that religion must derive from a being that is totally separate from this world.

-          It is in the presence of such a being that numinosity is experienced.

-          Otto claimed that many of the visions recorded in the Bible, such as Moses’ vision of the burning bush, are experience of the numinous.

Sui generis

Means unique. Of its own kind/ in a class of its own- applies to numinous feeling.



No comments have yet been made