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date: 21 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

‘Religious experience’ is a concept attributed to a wide variety of phenomena, including mystical states, altered states of consciousness, and spirit possessions; theorists variously attribute the causes of experience to divine sources, social or cultural prompting, or natural, biological processes. Classic theorists employed a normative paradigm that authorizes some experiences as superior to others, and often linked their account of experience with an evolutionary theory of religion. These normative approaches have been called into question by contemporary theorists who have exposed the normative baggage in the classic works, baggage often tied to European colonialism or assumptions of Christian superiority. Contemporary theorists offer more critical, analytical paradigms for analyzing special experiences cross-culturally without reifying them or presuming their universality. These theorists not only permit but encourage some reductionist theorizing of experience. However, even these more analytical paradigms are subject to a number of possible criticisms.

Keywords: experience, William James, mysticism, Rudolf Otto, religion, Friedrich Schleiermacher

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