Essays In Phenomenological Theology

Essays In Phenomenological Theology-11
So there are “spiritual sensations” of touch, sight, taste, smell and hearing that are taken to be in some way analogous to their counterparts in ordinary sense perception.

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By contrast, there is in general no difficulty in specifying the phenomenology of an experience of, say, turning one's face into a breeze, because it is easy to recreate the stimulus conditions for such an experience, and we can therefore attend repeatedly to the character of the experience.

And since others can also do this, we can establish a public language for the description of such experiences.

These observations suggest another response to the objection that mystical perception is epistemically defective because we lack a reliable vocabulary for the description of the phenomenology of such experiences.

On the contrary, it may be said, there is such a vocabulary, albeit that it is not as developed or its full meaning as generally accessible as the vocabulary that we use for the description of the phenomenology of ordinary sensory experience.

We lack a relevant vocabulary, he argues, because we cannot construct any simple correlation between a range of “stimulus conditions” for mystical perception and the kinds of experience that are likely to arise under those conditions.

And therefore we cannot refine a vocabulary for the description of mystical experience by replication of relevant conditions and renewed attention to the phenomenology of the experiences that occur under those conditions.

And if there is, do we have a reliable vocabulary to describe it?

Is there a phenomenology of mystical experience which crosses faith boundaries?

Some commentators have sought to distinguish between the component of a report of a religious experience that is a record of its phenomenology and the component that involves an interpretation of the experience according to some favoured doctrinal scheme (Stace 1961).

As Pike notes, it is possible in principle that whole traditions of mystical experience have been more concerned to communicate the doctrinal implications of such experience rather than its phenomenological content (1992, p.


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