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The Postmodern Catholic

Religious Experience
College Recommendations Guidelines
Sacred Paths
Homeworks and Outline: Sacred Paths
Reading Guide Questions Taoism 211-218
Reading Guide Questions Taoism
Homeworks: and Outline: Introduction to Catholicism
Unit IV Moses Reluctant Hero
Unit III God's Imperfect Instruments
Unit III God's Chosen Ones
The Mass, Vestements, and Sacred Vessels
Unit III The Sacraments
Iona Prep Interfaith Society
Islam Notes

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The Religious Experience: East, West, Everywhere

Many psychologists, philosophers, and theologians talk about how some people have an intense, sudden, usually unexpected experience of a "higher reality" or "higher power" beyond what we normally experience. Some say it is the experience of "God." Here are how William James (one of the greatest American psychologists) and D.T. Suzuki (one of the greatest Japanese Zen philosophers) described religious experiences in their cultures. Are there any similarities between east and west? How do these compare to the "peak experiences" that Abraham Maslow (one of the founders of humanistic psychology) said occur in EVERYONE'S life?

Aspects of the Religious Experience ("Conversion") according to William James:

  • you sense there is a higher control or power behind reality
  • you feel a oneness with the world and nature
  • you realize profound "truths" you did not realize before
  • everything looks new, alive, and beautiful
  • you are overwhelmed with happiness and ectasy
  • all of your worries fall away
  • you cannot express this experience in words
  • you are ABSOLUTELY certain about the importance of this experience

Aspects of the Religious Experience ("Enlightenment") according to D.T. Suzuki:

  • you sense there is a "something" beyond and much greater than yourself
  • you sense that this "something" feeds and is the source of who you are
  • you feel exalted, expanded beyond yourself, at one with the universe
  • the experience is "impersonal" - it is not simply a personal event
  • you feel free
  • you see the essence of things; you see things for what they truly are
  • you accept things for what they are; you accept life
  • you cannot express this experience in words; it cannot be analyzed
  • you are absolutely certain of this experience: NO ONE can refute it

Abraham Maslow said that WE ALL have peak experiences. Here's how he described them:

  • the experience is ego-transcending; it goes beyond "you"
  • you see reality clearly, vividly, profoundly
  • everything in the universe seems meaningful and interconnected
  • you feel passive, receptive and surrendered to the experience
  • you see things for what they are and not according to your own needs
  • every thing looks unique and beautiful
  • you feel acceptance and love for everything
  • time and space seem irrelevant
  • you feel wonder, awe, humility
  • you feel fortunate and graced
  • you feel a sense of free-will and responsibility for the world
  • all of your fears, anxieties, and conflicts disappear
  • you KNOW that this experience is what life is all about Homeworks and Outline: Sacred Paths

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D. “The more I am able to affirm others, to say ‘yes” to them in myself, by discovering them in myself and myself in them, the more real I am. I am fully real if my own heart says yes to everyone” Thomas Merton