A religious experience (sometimes known as a spiritual experience, sacred experience, or mystical experience) is a subjective experience in which an individual reports contact with a transcendent reality, an encounter or union with the divine. Such an experience often involves arriving at some knowledge or insight previously unavailable to the subject yet unaccountable or unforeseeable according to the usual conceptual or psychological framework within which the subject has been used to operating. Religious experience generally brings understanding, partial or complete, of issues of a fundamental character that may have been a cause (whether consciously acknowledged or not) of anguish or alienation to the subject for an extended period of time. This may be experienced as a form of healing, enlightenment or conversion. The commonalities and differences between religious experiences across different cultures have enabled scholars to categorize them for academic study.
Many religious and mystical traditions see religious experiences (particularly that knowledge that comes with them) as revelations caused by divine agency rather than ordinary natural processes. They are considered real encounters with God or gods, or real contact with higher-order realities of which humans are not ordinarily aware. Sceptics or scientists may hold that religious experience is an evolved feature of the human brain amenable to normal scientific study. Such study may be said to have begun with the American psychologist and philosopher William James in his 1901/02 Gifford Lectures later published as The Varieties of Religious Experience.
Famous quotes containing the words religious experience, religious and/or experience:
“... the generation of the 20s was truly secular in that it still knew its theology and its varieties of religious experience. We are post-secular, inventing new faiths, without any sense of organizing truths. The truths we accept are so multiple that honesty becomes little more than a strategy by which you manage your tendencies toward duplicity.”
—Ann Douglas (b. 1942)
“The short lesson that comes out of long experience in political agitation is something like this: all the motive power in all of these movements is the instinct of religious feeling. All the obstruction comes from attempting to rely on anything else. Conciliation is the enemy.”
—John Jay Chapman (18621933)
“It is not enough to demand insight and informative images of reality from the theater. Our theater must stimulate a desire for understanding, a delight in changing reality. Our audience must experience not only the ways to free Prometheus, but be schooled in the very desire to free him. Theater must teach all the pleasures and joys of discovery, all the feelings of triumph associated with liberation.”
—Bertolt Brecht (18981956)