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  • Introduction: The Religious Structure of Phenomena—A Phenomenological Investigation
  • Susi Ferrarello and Iulian Apostolescu

The essays presented in this issue focus on the phenomenological investigation of religious phenomena. Scholars belonging to different phenomenological traditions address the following groups of questions in order to describe the structure that makes a phenomenon religious.

First, is it actually possible to talk about religious experience? In this issue we decided not to give a final answer but, rather, to refer to religious experience as the religious structure of phenomena. In fact, the main question that informs our current contributions is: Could there be a phenomenology of religious experience?

Second, we would like to ponder what different forms of phenomenological investigations can add to the description of the religious structure of phenomena. In this case we refer to the philosophical and psychological reflections of Dewey, Husserl, Heidegger, Ricoeur, James, and so forth, in order to shed light on religious phenomena. [End Page 1]

Third, we would like to address the question that gives the title to this issue: Do these phenomena present themselves as religious, or is it their structure as it interacts with our sense of self, our beliefs, our sense of the sacred, and our transcendental attitude that attributes phenomena a religious color? Can a religious sentiment be grounded in a perceptual and experiential quality? Or does our way of relating to neutral matter color it with a theological and axiological quality?

Some Answers

The ways in which the authors address these questions are different. In “Guilt, Confession, and Forgiveness: From Methodology to Religious Experiencing in Paul Ricœur’s Phenomenology,” Anna Jani approaches religious experience through a twofold phenomenological investigation aimed at discovering (1) how religious experiences reflect on reality and (2) how the methodology of phenomenology leads to the wider ontology of theology. These two divergent approaches to religious experiences find their source in the phenomenological reflection on reality, and this reality, in view of the substantially nonreal experience of religiosity, urged the creation of a new ontology in the gift of revelation. Ricoeur’s phenomenological approach is used to inquire into this layer of reality.

Drawing on Husserl’s egology, Marc Applebaum’s contribution, “Remembrance: A Husserlian Phenomenology of Sufi Practice,” discusses the traditional Sufi practice of “remembrance of God” (dhikr), which can be understood as “the primary meditative practice” within Islam (Elias 2013, 199). The aim is to describe dhikr as a religious phenomenon consisting in turning from a condition of heedlessness and duality to a unitive experience of remembering God and being remembered by God. Remembrance is framed not as a metaphysical doctrine but as a lived experience situated in the practice of classical Sufism, traditionally understood as a lifelong sapiential path. Husserlian phenomenological analysis is well suited to the study of religious experience for the following reasons: First, it allows for the open examination of lived experience unburdened by dogmatic presuppositions, be they theological or philosophical, by means of the epoché, a methodical bracketing of theoretical assumptions. Held within the epoché, the “general thesis of belief in factual existence characteristic of the natural attitude” is suspended (Spiegelberg 1965, 724). Second, the late Husserl’s synthesis of static and genetic phenomenology aims [End Page 2] to explore both reflective and pre-reflective consciousness and thereby shed light upon the personal, pre-personal, and primordial layers of conscious life— an approach that is invaluable in investigating a meditative path that can be read as a lived inquiry into precisely these dimensions of consciousness. Third, as Bruzina notes, “at the heart of phenomenology . . . understanding is not tied primarily or exclusively to sheer conceptuality but has living sense in the linkage of the conceptual to the experiential” (2004, 380). Phenomenological findings are always explicitly or implicitly experiential; therefore, it is a fitting approach to classical Sufi practice as a path of lived verification and gnosis (ma’rifah) realized in sapiential rather than conceptual knowing.

In “Sacred Addictions: On the Phenomenology of Religious Experience,” John Panteleimon Manoussakis raises the questions “What is religion?” and “What makes an experience ‘religious,’ or, rather, what makes us append this characterization to any particular experience?” To paraphrase one famous passage from Augustine: “We know perfectly well...


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