Studies in Religion and Human Experience unit 4 Religious experience

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Studies in Religion and Human Experience UNIT 4 Religious experience

AO1 You must show knowledge and understanding of ways in which scholars have classified religious experience

To be able to classify religious experience we need to first define religious experience

General definitions – Scheiermacher, Caroline Franks Davis (Vardy 115), Alister Hardy and/or Ninian Smart (Webber page 12)

David Hay has identified features that classify how religious experiences are different from ordinary experiences based on research – work of Alister Hardy and Religious Experience Research Centre

Furthermore, Walter Stace identified eight distinctive features that formed the ‘common core’ or classification of religious experiences








An alternative list of different classifications can be found in the work of Greeley …. Immanent and transcendent

Greeley’s list is considered to be superior as …

Discussion about different classifications of religious experience by scholars

Over the past century there has been much discussion by scholars on how we should classify religious experiences. Some have two classifications or categories while others have six.

Swinburne classified religious experiences into public and private. They can be dependent on personal interpretation or …

Otto was the first scholar to refer to the numinous aspect of a religious experience. The word numinous comes from …..Cole 25

Otto’s ideas can be exemplified using C.S. Lewis, Moses, Isaiah or St Thomas (doubting Thomas)

In contrast to Otto, Buber stresses personal relationships … Cole 26

Caroline Franks Davis classified six types of religious experience







What would you add now?

Mystical experiences - One classification of religious experience is the mystical. Mystical experiences have been classified in many ways by a variety of scholars e.g. James, Happold, Stace, Pahnke, Dossett etc.

Definition of mystical

Teasdale claims that the distinctive features of mystical experiences are … in Cole

In his book, Varieties of Religious Experience William James . . .Cole 5

According to James there are four distinctive marks that need to be present to classify as a mystical experience …. explain with examples

You could link to the ‘Fruits’ section in Dossett here e.g. a can be classified as a religious experience if they change in the person’s life

In the middle of the 20th Century Happold, Dossett (page 11 and 12) and/or Pankhe have added to James’ classification criteria … exemplify

Link to Smart and Otto and the numinous if you haven’t included them in section 1

Remember this is just a guide and you can use any appropriate examples (St Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, St John of the Cross, Isaiah, Simon Peter or Sufism)

For regenerative see the summary in Dossett page 11


McGuire (from Cole) defined conversion as …

Or … Conversion is …

William James’s definition of conversion experiences is based on psychological ideas but it does offer a fairly comprehensive set of distinctive features that need to be present to classify as a conversion experience …

James stated that the conversion includes a process … for example

Gradual or sudden – St Paul or John Henry Newman

Self- divided becomes self-unified – based on psychological understanding of …

A conversion could be volitional, meaning that … Or it could be self-surrendering... .Finney example in Cole page 32

James claims the experience could also be passive e.g. Nicky Cruz or active e.g. Cat Stevens

Finally, and most importantly for James the experience must be transforming to classify as a religious experience – if you haven’t included it already use the Fruits’ section in Dossett here e.g. change in the person’s life and the Results section of Cole

Conversions have been studied by … Lofland and Stovovd or Lofland and Stark …

Remember this is just a guide and you can use any appropriate examples (Tolstoy, Lewis, John Wesley, Sunder Singh, St Paul, John Henry Newman and Martin Luther)


Revelation is a distinctive feature that is found in many classifications of religious experience e.g. C.F.D.

Revelation can involve being told something very specific, for example in the case of the children of Fatima – see AS textbook and examples booklet

Or it can involve a process through which a person gains some insight, interpreting the events …

Revelation is often classified into either propositional and non- propositional.. .

Propositional revelation …

And can be exemplified by … e.g. Muhammad and Guru Nanak

Non-propositional contains …

The Buddha’s experience can be seen as non-propositional …

C.F.D. has classified revelatory experiences based on five distinctive features … remember to add examples

You can also include Near Death Experiences, prayer, charismatic phenomena etc.

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