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Transcendent Experiences

Transcendent Experiences: Phenomenology and Critique

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 224
  • Book Info
    Transcendent Experiences
    Book Description:

    Roy discusses the validity of transcendent experiences and the reasons why they can be considered non-illusory.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8273-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    Sociological surveys report that a significant percentage of the Australian, British, and North-American population (from 35 per cent up to 50 per cent) recall having had a transcendent experience at least once in their life.¹ A transcendent experience can be characterized as an event in which individuals, by themselves or in a group, have the impression that they are in contact with something boundless and limitless, which they cannot grasp, and which utterly surpasses human capacities. While many reach a positive judgment regarding the status of what has been apprehended, others discount such incidents as purely subjective and as not...

  5. Part 1: A Phenomenological Approach

    • Chapter 1 Constituents and Classification
      (pp. 3-13)

      The phenomenon to be highlighted has been diversely identified: the feeling of absolute dependence (Schleiermacher), cosmic consciousness (Bucke), religious experience (James), the sense of the numinous (Otto), the experience of transcendence (Rahner), peak experience (Maslow), the dimension of ultimacy (Gilkey), signal of transcendence (Berger), ecstatic experience (Tracy), and so forth.¹ This kind of experience is neither a particular increase in insight and knowledge nor a helpful pious affection, although these are also part of religion. Rather, it consists in discovering afresh, as if taken by surprise, an uncanny dimension of reality, an uncircumscribed realm to which one feels open. It...

    • Chapter 2 Narratives
      (pp. 14-24)

      As suggested in the preceding chapter, the four types of transcendent experience – aesthetic, ontological, ethical, and interpersonal – are specified by the circumstance in which they arise. They are sorted out thanks to the precipitating factor that shapes the way the basic discovery takes place. This is not to imply that each type is totally different from the three others. On the contrary, while every one of these types is stamped by what triggers it, it may, as I have noted above, share several characteristics with the other types.

      The time has come now to illustrate the phenomenology developed...

  6. Part 2: Historic Contributions

    • Chapter 3 Kant and the Sublime
      (pp. 27-46)

      Part 1 of this book sketched out a phenomenology of transcendent experience. Part 2 will engage the thoughts of some Western thinkers on this topic. We begin with Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), because his distinctive contribution – the notion of the transcendental – brings about a significant shift. He both sums up several acquisitions of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment and sets the course for nineteenth-century philosophy. Each of the philosophers to be introduced in the coming chapters will be situated with respect to Kant, as either furthering or questioning his position – and often as doing both. Readers are thus invited...

    • Chapter 4 Schleiermacher and Absolute Dependence
      (pp. 47-68)

      Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834) is the first modern theologian to have provided a detailed account of transcendent experience. He offers us two different presentations, a rhetorical one and a systematic one, in his masterpieces:On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers,¹ andThe Christian Faith

      In connection with what was investigated in chapter 3, it may be of interest to note at the outset that, without mentioning Kant by name, Schleiermacher rejects his anthropocentric interpretation of natureʹs boundlessness. In his secondSpeech, Schleiermacher writes: ʹThe next thing to meet us in corporeal nature is its material boundlessness, the enormous masses...

    • Chapter 5 Hegel and the Dialectic of the Infinite
      (pp. 69-88)

      In the two preceding chapters, I expressed agreement with several of Kantʹs and Schleiermacherʹs tenets regarding our openness to transcendence. Let us simply recall Kantʹs phenomenology of the sublime (experienced either in mathematics or in nature), his accentuating the mediation of the human mind, and the status he assigns to the concept of the infinite. We have also come to appreciate Schleiermacherʹs unique construal of ʹfeelingʹ as the abiding self-consciousness that lies at the source of knowing and willing, as well as the locus of absolute dependence and awareness of a ʹWhence.ʹ Yet all those views have been challenged by...

    • Chapter 6 William James and Religious Experience
      (pp. 89-104)

      William James (1842–1910) delivered the prestigious Gifford lectures at the University of Edinburgh in 1901–2. Published under the titleThe Varieties of Religious Experience, they were received with enthusiasm and have remained classics ever since.¹ Like his brother Henry, William James was an excellent writer, attentive to the details of experience and the nuances of feeling. He took religious issues very seriously: ʹhowever particular questions connected with our individual destinies may be answered, it is only by acknowledging them as genuine questions, and living in the sphere of thought which they open up, that we become profound. But...

    • Chapter 7 Rudolf Otto and the Numinous
      (pp. 105-124)

      In the last section of chapter 1, we introduced the typology of Rudolf Otto (1869–1937). The present chapter will discuss more amply his views on transcendent experience. Otto, who taught at the University of Marburg, publishedDas Heiligein 1917; this classic on mysticism was translated into English asThe Idea of the Holy.¹ Joachim Wach shares his recollections of this most unusual professor:

      An air of genuine mystery surrounded Otto. Familiarity was the last thing which a visitor would have expected of the great scholar or which he himself would have encouraged. The students who followed his lectures...

    • Chapter 8 Maréchal, Rahner, and Lonergan
      (pp. 125-142)

      Thus far we have examined the thought of Protestant authors only. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, more Protestants than Catholics paid attention to religious experiences taking place in nature or in ordinary human life. Catholics were not the initiators of theories concerning religious experiences, but rather critics – whether sympathetic or not – who would attempt to rephrase, nuance, or correct what Protestant writers had stated. This was the case, for instance, when Catholic teachers at Tübingen tried to adopt a stance with regard to Schleiermacher.¹ In the course of the twentieth century, however, three creative Catholic thinkers –...

  7. Part 3: The Validity of Transcendent Experiences

    • Chapter 9 Basic Concepts I
      (pp. 145-160)

      Let us briefly retrace our steps. In part 1, phenomenology was utilized to break down transcendent experience into elements and types. In part 2, an historical approach was taken by way of which classic understandings of the human preoccupation with the mystery were discussed and appraised. Moving beyond phenomenology, which has given us a description of the recurrent features of transcendent experience, and taking advantage of the historic contributions made by Kant and other authors, part 3 will search out the fundamental principles involved in the accounts we have examined.¹ Another philosophical strategy – different from the phenomenological and the...

    • Chapter 10 Basic Concepts II
      (pp. 161-183)

      In the preceding chapter, the terms experience, intentionality, transcendence, the transcendent, indefiniteness, finitude/infinitude, and the infinite were defined in order to manifest what is involved in transcendent experience. We must now concentrate on the central elements of transcendent experience that were presented in chapter 1: the feeling, the discovery, and the interpretation. First, we have to characterize the principal feeling, its coexistence with the discovery, its role, and its relations to emotions. Second the interactions between experience and interpretation will be probed. Finally we will conclude our reflections with an answer to the issue of directness and mediation.

      In chapter...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 184-188)

    This study has sought to kindle or rekindle existential and philosophical interest in transcendent experiences. It is hoped that readers have come to better appreciate the rich variety and significant function of these experiences in human life. I have indicated how they force themselves upon the human intentionality in its reach towards knowing and loving the whole of reality, and engaging with the mystery. Taking my cue from Husserl, who writes that consciousness necessarily is consciousnessofsomething, I have argued that transcendent experiences are indeed directed to an infinite ʹobjectiveʹ (or ʹobject,ʹ a misleading term to which I have...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 189-210)
  10. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 211-216)
  11. Index
    (pp. 217-219)