Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Problem of Religious Experience

Dr. Olga Louchakova-Schwartz edited a new book, which I contributed a chapter to. It will be published in November.

Here's my chapter information.

[Chapter 2] Shogo Tanaka
Reconnecting the Self to the Divine: The Body’s Role in Religious Experience

It is the first time for me to consider religious experiences from a perspective of embodiment. Let me share the abstract with all of you. Enjoy it!

I would like to explore spontaneous religious experiences,  “spontaneous” meaning experiences that happen outside traditional religious beliefs or religious institutions and traditions but still have a religious nature. Such experiences include the feeling of unity with nature,  experiences during peak performance in sports, or the sudden ecstatic sensation aroused by listening to a harmonious chorus, and so forth. Although they are not always recognized as “religious” for lack of a proper context,  they are intense enough to awaken spiritual feelings. What is experienced as “something beyond the self” in these cases may be the foundational source of divinity underlying all sorts of religious activities. My goal is to further explore the experience of divinity from the perspective of the embodied self in terms of the sense of agency.  James (1902) listed passivity as one of the four hallmarks of mystical experience: the person feels as if his or her actions are guided by the Other while maintaining a sense of agency. In my view, this state originates in the function of the body schema coordinating actions with the environment. In an unfamiliar situation, the body schema organizes new bodily actions beyond one’s intentions and expectations. Similarly, the body operates outside habit and as if following the Other’s will in spontaneous religious experiences.