027: Characteristics of Religious Experiences and Down-to-Earth Ways of Talking about Them

With quite a bit of help from the early twentieth century intellectual giant William James, in this episode I introduce two framings that assisted me greatly when my faith first began to shift. One is a model that contains four characteristics of religious/mystical/direct experience and helps differentiate such events from emotional experiences or other day-to-day moments when we feel close to God, feel God or the Spirit is “with” us, comforting us, etc. The second is the down-to-earth way that James, a skeptic by nature (but an empiricist who chooses to go where ever the evidence seems to lead rather than trying to fit what he sees and experiences into already-circumscribed and confining boxes), speaks about religion and its power in human lives. And he does this without feeling the need to get specific and express the dynamics of religious experiences in terms of “God’s” actions in the world and in us. In this presentation, I introduce James’ term, the MORE, as a very broad and yet very powerful category to elucidate that “something” that is beyond what our physical senses and intellectual faculties can touch. James speaks of an “intimacy” with this MORE that far exceeds that which we can experience through other means. It’s beautiful, and it’s very helpful for anyone who feels uncomfortable or triggered by God-talk or typical spiritual/religious terminology. It can even help us explain to more traditionally believing family and friends what is going on within ourselves as we wrestle, and do it in ways that they might be able to understand and not be offended by.

I hope you’ll give this a listen!

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Author: Dan Wotherspoon

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