Personal/Experiential

The Sound of a Small Whisper: Ordinary Religious Experience



Article abstract/summary:
An ordinary religious experience does not entail an overwhelming sense of the Divine; it is not a “numinous” experience. It is instead easily ignored. In a phenomenological psychological inquiry into such a religious experience, both the noema, the “what” experienced, and the noesis, the mode of givenness of the experience, manifested themselves in distinctive ways. The paper examines a simple experience of having been guided in making a decision. The guidance was recognized only at the moment of realization. The realization revealed the decision to have been part of a larger drama that transcended the immediate experience. The “world” of this moment of realization included sensing that the sky above—as an “elemental”—was a dome, with allusions to the Noah story. Even at the time, this perception was not experienced as literal, but as symbolic. The social, historical, and theological contexts for the possibility of this experience receive attention. Theological as well as psychological reflection indicate such an experience continues to happen, in memory and thought, and even in action, long after the initial moment. Essential to the meaning of the experience is an admonition to transcend egocentricity. 

Keywords/search terms:
elemental; illusion; numinous; phenomenology; symbol


Download the PDF: The Sound of a Small Whisper: Ordinary Religious Experience by Robert Kugelmann


This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the journal Open Theology, 3:1 (2017), 249-256, available here. Posted on 07 June 2021 by Robert Kugelmann


The Sacred Disguised: An Instance of the Double Use of Space by Japan’s Hidden Christians



Article abstract/summary:
Christianity arrived on the island of Shikoku, Japan, from the neighboring island of Kyushu in the mid-sixteenth century, an event commemorated by a signboard and gravesite where some of the early converts to the faith were buried. The sanctified area exhibits what might be expected of Hidden Christian spatiality: a quasi-Buddhist nature, syncretistic Shinto elements, and offertory tools; each of which would be quite out of place in any other “Christian” context. What may the sacrality of this ground have entailed? What significance did its objects contain for those who created it and visited it? Moreover, how “ecumenical” could worship there have been if one half (the Christian) was for political reasons forcibly kept hidden while the other half (Buddhist/Shinto) was open? These are the questions we pursue, although our conclusions can perhaps do no more than indicate a direction. 

Keywords/search terms:
Hidden Christianity; iconography; object/artifact; phenomenology of religious experience; philosophy of religion; Shikoku, Japan; Shinto/Buddhist


Download the PDF: The Sacred Disguised: An Instance of the Double Use of Space by Japan’s Hidden Christians by Andrew Oberg


This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the journal Review of Ecumenical Studies, 13:2 (2021), 214-238. The article is an extension of and expansion on my earlier "The Hidden Christian inbreak on Shikoku: A Remembering, a wondering"; please see the below. Posted on 04 June 2021 by Andrew Oberg


Sensing the Self in Spiritual Experience



Article abstract/summary:
The paper seeks to argue that the feeling of being part of a larger whole, considered to be a major feature of spiritual experience in some traditions, amounts to a change in the way the self is pre-reflectively understood. Further, the paper argues that some recent developments in the study of cognition support the case for such a revision in self-conception, and this can be used to build up a secular understanding of spirituality. The paper proceeds by making use of Abraham Maslow's account of peak experience along with some accounts of both ancient and contemporary forms of spirituality to argue that the feeling of being part of a larger whole amounts to a significant shift from the separative self-conception implicit in everyday behavior. Subsequently, it is argued that some extant theories on cognition point at the illusory nature of separative self-conception. 

Keywords/search terms:
spiritual experience; self-conception; free will; metaphors


Download the PDF: Sensing the Self in Spiritual Experience by Hari Narayanan V


This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the journal Mind & Society, 03 January 2021 (DOI: doi.org/10.1007/s11299-020-00270-0); available here. Posted on 24 April 2021 by Hari Narayanan V


The Hidden Christian Inbreak on Shikoku: A Remembering, a Wondering



Article abstract/summary:
Christianity arrived on Shikoku from neighboring Kyushu in the mid-sixteenth century, and there is a memorial to the first converts located in what is now the northern part of Matsuyama City. The site exhibits what we might expect of Hidden Christian symbols and objects: an aura of quasi-Buddhism, syncretistic Shinto items, and even altars for drink offerings; each of which would be impossible to find in any other “Christian” location. Yet the question of the importance (or even value) of orthodoxy raised here is legitimate, I think, and turns on the position and purpose of faith. In the below we therefore take this inbreaking of a new set of conceptual world-bearings that Japan’s early Christians chose to live as a starting point to explore the nature of belief more broadly, paying particular attention to what is occurring in the brain at a physical level in relation. At this juncture the psychological, phenomenological, and ethical all intersect, and thus there can be fewer areas of more pertinence to philosophical study and application. Our results here may do no more than gesture at a way, but we seek to thereby set a path which might prove worth treading. 

Keywords/search terms:
Hidden Christianity; iconography; neural “maps”; neuroscience; phenomenology; Shikoku; Shinto


Download the PDF: The Hidden Christian Inbreak on Shikoku: A Remembering, a Wondering by Andrew Oberg


This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the journal Cultural Studies, 9 (2021), 41-60. Posted on 17 February 2021 by Andrew Oberg


A Phenomenology of Image-Bearing: Spirituality, Humanity, and the Expressive Relation



Article abstract/summary:
The concept of humanity as “Imago Dei” is central to Christian accounts of the nature of human being. Our interest for it in this paper, however, is phenomenological not theological: is it possible to analyze and understand the structure of humanity as an image-bearing entity? And can thinking image-bearing in this broader phenomenological way help us gain new insight into religion or religious experience more broadly? 

Keywords/search terms:
Christianity; image-bearing; imago-dei; phenomenology; spirituality


Download the PDF: A Phenomenology of Image-Bearing by Neal DeRoo


This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article forthcoming in a volume edited by Martin Nitsche. Posted on 05 February 2021 by Neal DeRoo


Dry, Weary, Smiling Bones: Finding a ‘yes’ through Hebrew narrative and a reduced spirituality



Article abstract/summary:
Life can be a difficult phenomenon to acquiesce to, much less embrace. Tragedy is seemingly around every corner, and very many philosophies and faiths both ancient and modern have championed the exit from existence over its entrance. Existentialism and nihilism proclaim the seizure or suicide of one’s undesired birth, moksha and nirvana the blessed non-return of a wandering soul. Yet against these currents the Jewish ideational approach to being, with its ever-old and newness, has consistently given the world a ‘yes’, and this apparently despite having every reason not to; although perhaps “because” is more appropriate to that prior clause than “despite”. In what follows we therefore consider how we might uncover from within Judaism an abstracted “spirituality” for our times, a numinousness that is not necessarily a “belief”, a “faith” that is more in line with a hope. Our objective is to learn how to think differently rather than to convert, and thus towards this more modest goal we set out to explore some images from Hebrew poetry and narrative, attempting to bring forth core conceptualities which could then be applied to an affirming notional framework befitting anyone who would ponder – who would feel – a way through. How might we state this ‘yes’ for our lives? 

Keywords/search terms:
Ezekiel; interpretation; Judaism; phenomenology; poetry/literature; spirituality


Download the PDF: Dry, Weary, Smiling Bones by Andrew Oberg


This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the journal Religions 13(1) 78; 15 January 2022 (DOI: doi.org/10.3390/rel13010078), and available here. First posted on 10 December 2020, and updated on 12 January 2022 by Andrew Oberg

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