Wednesday, November 08, 2023

The Varieties of Religious Experience

William James gave a series of lectures in Scotland about the various ways that people experienced religion. The focus is on the individual experience, rather than religious ritual. These experiences were further narrowed to those that more "novel" in nature. This often involves people that would go on to found religious movements. (George Fox and St Teresa seem to get the most coverage.) However, the experiences of regular people are also explored. These can often be as significant as the religious founders, though narrowed to an individual life.

Attempts have often been made to explain religion in the terms of science. Miracles are explained in terms of scientific concepts. However, this belittles some of the true benefits of religious experience. Fatih, mystical activity and other religious experiences have tangible benefits that cannot be easily explained otherwise. Religion also encourages efforts towards an external good rather than a personal desire. This can be taken to different levels (such as monks that shun all worldly comforts.) Religious experiences can be best explored when they are legitimately respected.

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