Elements of Religious Experience
|Your text suggests that there are at least five
basic orientations that may characterize an individual's or group's
religious experience. Remember that a religious experience can be
described as something that modifies one's pivotal values through an
encounter with the sacred. The five basic religious
orientations that the author identifies are:
|The Moral Orientation:
||The "moral orientation" focuses on following a prescribed, often divinely revealed, way of
conduct. Notice that there are actually two factors
that make up this orientation. First, there is the notion that a way
of conduct has been revealed or discerned. This way may have
been made known in divinely revealed law and instructions such as in
the case of Judaism and Islam. The pattern of conduct may have been discerned through observation and analysis of
the natural or social order as in the case of Taoism and
Confucianism. In either case, a pattern of conduct that originates
in the sacred realm is the basis for the moral orientation.
Second, the moral orientation includes the conviction that one's
actions orient one toward the sacred. Thus, the moral orientation primarily
emphasizes right action rather
than belief in a doctrine or teaching.
The Mystical Orientation
|The mystical orientation focuses on
a participation with, direct experience of, or union with Ultimate Reality. The means
by which one reaches this union with Ultimate Reality
often includes such practices and intense disciplined prayer and
Dale Cannon (see below) refers to the mystical
orientation as the way of mystical quest.
The Aesthetic Orientation
||The aesthetic orientation focuses on finding the pattern
or logic of reality underlying. This approach often uses
the rational or reasoned inquiry. It is the orientation
adopted by theologians.
The Ecstatic Orientation
||The ecstatic orientation focuses on supernormal experiences that bring the individual under
control of transcendental powers. In other words, the individual
transcends the profane and enters into the (often) unseen realm of
the sacred. Ecstasy comes from a Greek word that literally
means "to stand outside of." When one enters the sacred realm, one
literally "stands outside" himself or herself. Thus, this experience
may be described as ecstatic. The ecstatic experience may
include trances, speaking in tongues, the experience of visions and
a sense of spiritual travel. Contrary to what your text indicates, this experience may or
may not be sought. In many cultures an traditions, the
individual has the strong conviction that the powers of the sacred
realm have called him/her even though he/she did not seek the
The Magical Orientation
||The magical orientation seeks to
discover and exercise methods that allow for the control of
transcendent powers for human purposes. This orientation may
actually be a small subgroup of a larger orientation that we can
refer to as the way of sacred rite.
Recently, Dale Cannon has proposed that
all religious experience can be classified according to one or more
of six ways of being religious.
According to Cannon these six ways are:
- The way of Right Action (moral orientation)
- The way of Mystical Quest (mystical orientation)
- The way of Reasoned Inquiry (aesthetic orientation)
- The way of Shamanic Mediation (ecstatic orientation)
- The way of Sacred Rite (may include magical orientation, but
not all sacred rites involve the kind of magical orientation
described in your text)
- The way of devotion. There is not corresponding category
in your text.
The last "way of being religious" merits special consideration.
The way of devotion focuses on faith in and loving devotion to a
deity. According to Cannon, "The way of devotion specifically
involves cultivation of a personal relationship to ultimate reality
of whole-hearted adoration, devotional surrender to its transforming
grace, and trust in its providential care." The way of
devotion often involves an emotional conversion experience.
This orientation is prominent in Protestant Christianity as
well as in popular Hinduism and some branches of Buddhism.