Philosophy of Religion
Chapter 5 Arguments for the Existence of God: Experience
Section 4. Mystical Experiences
the heart of religion is in the religious experience, then at the heart of
all religious traditions are those experiences in which individuals not
only encounter the supernatural but experience a total loss of self
and loss of individuality and are in union with the divine, the absolute,
the deity, the supernatural.
It is a numinal experience, individual and esoteric.
experience is a particular variety of religious experience in which the
subject is transformed and reports the loss of individuality, the oneness
of all reality, union with the deity, the unity of the subject of the
experience with the object of the experience.
READ: Encyclopedia of Religion and Society, Anthropology of Religion. William H. Swatos Jr. http://hirr.hartsem.edu/ency/Mysticism.htm
commonalities in such experience around the world is termed the consensus
has been described by Rudolph Otto as involving an experience
characterized as being tremendum et fascinans
James has described such experiences as having the following
held that such experiences are powerful and lead the subject of such an
experience to a belief in a supernatural entity.
religious experiences have consequences for those who encounter them. They
issue into feelings and actions.
on William James, Varieties of Religious Experience
text of Varieties
of Religious Experience
on Rudolph Otto’s Experience
of the Holy
Notes on Martin Buber’s I and Thou
all who learn of the reports of such religious experiences accept them as
conclusive evidence for the existence of a supernatural reality or
spiritual beings. Many have attempted to give alternative accounts of such
experiences that do not involve acceptance of the existence of any
supernatural entities or reality.
is an approach to religious experiences
which explains them as being the result of natural forces. It accounts for
such phenomena in natural terms without recourse to anything that is
beyond the physical realm. In general, all reality and all experiences can
be accounted for (fully explained) in terms of physical processes.
are different explanations for the origin and nature of religious
experiences. What they have in common is the rejection of a supernatural
source or object and the attempt to offer a full explanation in
empirically verifiable terms.
explanations have been offered by several theoreticians, including Sigmund
Freud. Sociological explanations have also been developed by several other
scientists, such as Emil Durkheim. What they have in common is the refusal
to accept religious experiences as being truthful, accurate, or believable
in so far as the existence of any supernatural reality. One of the
principle reasons for withholding acceptance of the reports is that the
experiences can not be verified and what they report encountering can not
be verified empirically.
this mystical religious experience veridical? Is it truthful? Is it a
report which others can accept as being Correct? Truthful? Accurate?
we accept that humans
should accept religious experiences as
being veridical UNLESS there exists positive grounds for thinking
otherwise, for thinking that the reports are not truthful, accurate or
do claim that there are positive grounds for rejecting the reports of such
experiences, i.e., against their being veridical experiences
mystics are abnormal: they tend to be sexually repressed
mystical experience is always mixed with other elements such as
sexual emotion or imagery
In response to these observations some offer that perhaps the human being must be in an altered state of consciousness in order to have the experience of the greater (supernatural) reality which the ordinary consciousness can not contain or reach. Sexual abstinence may be a necessary but not a sufficient condition for having such an encounter.
Broad notes that reports or descriptions of these religious
experiences involve concepts and beliefs that are:
inadequate to the facts
mixed with error and nonsense
subject to change in time
notes that these features are also true of scientific concepts and beliefs
and that they have and do change in time.
Here is a skeptical view of the mystical experiences that offers a series of explanations of what may induce such experiences and presents then as hallucinations of a particular nature.
READ: How to have your own mystical experience
by Massimo Pigliucci
READ: How to have your own mystical experience by Massimo Pigliucci
mystical experiences are not pure delusions or illusions. Perhaps
religious experiences are only encountered by those who have an ability to
experience them. Perhaps there are people, even many people, who are
"deaf" to such experiences.
maintains that if
the subject of a religious experience is to be believed there are certain
requirements to be met. Any perception of an individual should be publicly
confirmed. No private experience can establish the existence of God. You
would first need to establish the existence of God by other means on order
to confirm that what was experienced was both God and True.
In relation to mystical experiences, consider that:
confirm what any subject is experiencing there must be
Consider a blind person who hears what sighted persons are reporting is
present but the blind person can not see them. Similar to a blind person
confirming what a sighted person sees there should be a method by which
those who do not "see" or experience the deity can nevertheless
confirm what those who do claim to see the deity are saying is accurate or
truthful. With the mystical experiences there are no such
"checkable" statements, so there can be no confirmation. Hence,
they can not serve as a proof of the existence of supernatural entities
because they are not veridical.
Consider a blind person who hears what sighted persons are reporting is present but the blind person can not see them. Similar to a blind person confirming what a sighted person sees there should be a method by which those who do not "see" or experience the deity can nevertheless confirm what those who do claim to see the deity are saying is accurate or truthful. With the mystical experiences there are no such "checkable" statements, so there can be no confirmation. Hence, they can not serve as a proof of the existence of supernatural entities because they are not veridical.
many should have the experience
it should exist in different cultures
the experience should produce a major transformation involving ,in
part, the moral life of the individual
Gutting claims that the three conditions are met by reports of mystical
experiences and so they do provide a justification for belief in a
supernatural being, a deity, God.
the other hand Louis
is not so confident. He claims that there is both a strong
justification and a weak justification to be offered that Religious
experiences do provide evidence of the existence of a supernatural entity,
this argument would be so strong as to oblige all people to believe in
this justification provides rational support only for those who have had
such an experience (or already accepted the world view that holds such
experiences are possible)
argues against such a strong argument
the reports are too amorphous
they reports are circular- acceptance of them depends on background
belief in God
reports are not capable of being confirmed as with perceptual
they are not checkable, not predictable
If one has no had a mystical experience how can one reach a conclusion as to whether or not such an experience exists as reported? is truthful? Is accurate? Is sufficient grounds to conclude that there is a supernatural realm? that there is a deity? That there is a Supreme being?
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