Chapter three defines a religious experience as "any experience
that initiates or strengthens, maintains or weakens, or terminates a
person's reliance on or commitment to a pivotal value.
- God initiates the call; the response is up to Moses
- The call leads to both questioning of Moses' pivotal values
as well as a deepened commitment.
- Part of the encounter with God leads to a significantly
deeper knowledge of the identity and nature of God.
- Gautama's religious experience is actually the culmination
of a long quest that began with the termination of his prior
- Notice that in contrast to the call of Moses, Gautama's
experience of enlightenment was self-initiated.
- Gautama's experience led him to formulate a new pivotal
value, the key insight of Buddhism: "Life contains suffering
because humans selfishly desire physical, spiritual, and
intellectual attainments and satisfactions."
- Recall that sufism is an expression of Islam that emphasizes
direct mystical experience or union with God.
- Notice that the text does not actually describe a sufi's
encounter with God. Direct experience or union with God is
sought through a number of means including:
- asceticism (self-denial)
- trance-like states induced or heightened with music and
- The sufi experience may both modify pivotal values and
deepen them. In other words, it modifies the traditional
servant-master relationship between the believer and Allah by
emphasizing a relationship of love and devotion.
|Saint Teresa of Avila (16th Century)
- Teresa' ecstatic experiences are both self initiated and
divinely given. Notice that in her account, the individual is
responsible for the initial discipline of prayers, but the
ecstatic experience is a gift from God.
- Saint Teresa also set a standard for distinguishing between
a true experience and a hallucinatory one: the influence of the
experience on the rest of one's life. Put another way, the
experience both is integrated into and serves to integrate all
elements of one's religious life.
|Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe (16th Century)
- Like Moses, Juan Diego's experience was initiated by the
Divine through an unusual occurrence.
- Like Moses, the experience is a call to perform a particular
- Like Moses, Juan is sent to a leader with a message and
performs divinely given signs to convince the leader of the
truth of the message.
- Gandhi does not seem to have a single experience; rather it
is an ongoing sense of an "inner voice"
- Gandhi saw truth in Christianity, Hinduism and Islam.
- Formulated the strategy of satyagraha.