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The Culture of Experience

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Autor:   •  December 5, 2017  •  Essay  •  2,394 Words (10 Pages)  •  10 Views

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Debbie Cooper

Dr. Daily

Approaches to the Study of Religion

November 3, 2017

The Culture of Experience

        The study of religions is a tricky thing, one must use one’s own judgment when finding one’s own way. There has been many philosophers and theorists delving into the religious realm to determine where, when, how, and why religion came to be; how it makes one feel, why it makes one feel that way, why one should feel that way, the meanings behind the feelings, and so on. Each theorist and philosopher claims to understand the theories they have delved into. Maybe understanding each theory will help to aid one in understanding religion in a new and fuller light, maybe it will only lead to a more confounding design for those who have not had the opportunity to explore religion as a youth or in adulthood. There are ethical issues, experiences that can conflict or truth that only one can see or view in ways that relate to themselves. If one is slavishly committed to the facts as they see them, then one may miss the true meaning of what religion will truly mean for them. These theorists are all morally inadequate; they are only focused upon the study of how their “focus” is ethically focused on religion, not how those in the regions of study are affected.

Rudolf Otto’s The Numinous

        Rudolph Otto distinguishes and investigates the non-rational ambiguity related to religion and the religious experience; he referred to this as mystery, which is the fundamental component in all religions, the numinous. He uses the related word "numen" to refer to deity or God. Compelled to use well-known words, like "dread" and "majesty," Otto contends that he is using them in a unique sense; to accentuate this fact, he occasionally uses Latin or Greek words for strategic concepts. This fact is central to understanding Otto. One’s feelings of the numinous and replies to the numinous are not conventional ones strengthened; they are distinctive. For example, fear does not become dread in response to the numinous; to be more precise, we stop feeling ordinary fear and shift into a completely distinctive feeling, a dread that is produced by insinuations of the numinous or the authentic experience of the numinous. The word "absolute" is utilized in its theoretical sense of existing without relation to any other being; self-existent; self-sufficing; "absolutely," is applied with the same significance. Lastly, according to Otto, "creature" is a being which has been created.

        The numinous awakens the mind effectively and creates the following reply:

Otto calls the feeling of numinous dread, aka awe or awe-fullness, the mysterium tremendum. The mysterium tremendum implies three qualities of the numinous:

a. its absolute unapproachability,
b. its power,
c. its urgency or energy, a force which is most easily perceived in the "wrath of God."

The numinous has another characteristic which co-exists with the mysterium tremendum, the capacity to fascinate. The numinous fascinates or attracts one to it with an intensity that is virtually irresistible. Otto calls the tempting attribute of the numinous the mysterium fascinosum. At its most powerful, this appeal becomes "enthusiastic" and transforms into the mystical "event", total contact with the numen, a situation which limited people experience. The numinous dread and the fascinating unite in a peculiar harmony of contrasts, which Otto calls the mysterium tremendum and fascinosum

Human beings as a species are of the mind to observe or experience the numinous. That is not to say that the capacity to distinguish the holy, let alone the awareness itself is inborn; it simply means that every person has the capacity to sense or experience the numinous. The numinous state of mind or the sensation of the numinous should be educed in us or conveyed into consciousness; it cannot be taught. But not everybody has the same measure of receptiveness to the holy. Otto, who has faith in the superiority of Christianity, rewards the highest platform of revelation to the Son or Christ, who exemplifies holiness.

The human soul has similarities with the divine or numinous; it too is mystery and spectacle, and exclusively alien to our understanding. Awareness into the soul comes, when it does, a flicker or surge of enlightenment. The numinous-ness of the human soul is what empowers the mystic to capture the numinous.

Mircea Eliade’s Sacred and Profane

In Eliade’s The Sacred and the Profane, he explains that his understanding of religion are two concepts: the sacred and the profane. The profane contains elements that are random, ordinary, and inconsequential, while the sacred is the opposite. The sacred “is the sphere of supernatural, of things extraordinary, memorable, and momentous” (Pals 199). In Eliade’s assessment, the matter of religion is with the supernatural. To Eliade, the profane doesn’t maintain as much significance as the sacred; he depicts profane as fading and fragile, while the sacred as eternal and full of possibility. He does not try to rationalize religion and discard all reductionist attempts. Eliade simply concentrates on enduring customs; he says they are reoccurring in religions all over the world, but he disregards their unambiguous framework and rejects them as immaterial. He also connects religion to ancient people whom he defines as, “those who have lived in the world of nature,” (Pals 198) or those who have hunted, fished, and farmed routinely. Ancient people desire to live life in the representation of the divine because they have a deep longing for paradise, and to be close to God. Additionally, Eliade is a devotee of how myths tell stories of not only gods but also on the trials of life. He states that humankind is developing a new belief method in which the belief is of whether there truly is a God. Eliade states that due to this theory, we need learn to live without the sacred, he undoubtedly has a fascinating slant on religion.
           In his approach, he made it significant to clarify that there are two separate planes of life; the profane which is the ordinary and often chaotic part of day-to-day life and the sacred which is the supernatural and extraordinary which is comprised of order and perfection. If one thinks about particular tribes, yet to this day we can still see the similar traits. They go about their day consistently and detach this from the sacred or the holy.  The way he said that we have a desire for returning to perfection or returning home and home is with the sacred and a spiritual world was unique. This feeling is the greatest heartfelt desire in the soul for ancient peoples. The spoken traditions present a spiritual link with the gods and nature as well. Eliade wanted assure people that he felt that no other representation of divine life and the savior-god is the one who endured as a human, Jesus Christ.  

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