RUB » CERES » KHK » Research » Focus Groups (since 2016) » Experience

Focus Group 'Experience'

The focus group 'experience' investigates theoretical developments of the concept of 'experience' in historical religious contexts, with a special emphasis on religious contacts, exchanges, and influences across Eurasia. During the 2016/2017 academic year's theme, immanence/transcendence, the KHK focus group 'experience' will address the relations between described experiences of transcendence, their cultural expressions, and subjectivity of the inner self.

The focus group will scrutinize the implications of the immanence/transcendence for actor-world relations, according to the subject's relation to itself and the inner world. It will do this from the historical perspective of individual study cases of religious encounters, and also, comparatively, across different religious traditions. As such, we will pursue the following lines of inquiry:

  • What is the relationship between experiences of transcendence, their cultural expression, and (the rise or suppression of) subjectivity? How is this relationship configured in different religious traditions?
  • How are experiences of transcendence encoded in settings of religious plurality, such as East Asia? Are such experiences relegated to one specific religion; or narrated by employing vocabulary and ideas from across the religious spectrum; or described as transcending the differences of religious traditions?
  • What is the relative advantage of the process of transcending in terms of initiative, mobility, expansion, border crossing and thus for the "dynamics of the history of religion"?
  • How do religions in contact deal with experiences of transcendence? In competing, copying and denigrating, do they aim at the experiences themselves, their descriptions and explanations, the methods of triggering (or hedging in) such experiences, or directly at the modes of subjectivity that are formed by all of these?

Underlying these questions about experience of the transcendent in religious contact there are more essential issues regarding the location and identification of religious experience as such:

  • Does the „inner self" keep a space for religious experience, which is withdrawn completely from contact with other religions, or does the KHK hypothesis, that religions emerge and develop in contact with other religions, hold true in that respect too?
  • Or is the „inner self" rather to be understood as a construct that comes into play when religions have a stable set of ideas and stabilize themselves inwardly?
  • Does experience occur before its verbalization? Does its awareness occur at the same time as formulating it? How is its ulterior remembering different from its initial verbalization? Can we divorce living experience from knowing experience, and further, from talking about experience, and finally, from reminiscing about experience? What constitutes religious experience? Ritual activities, social practices? Reading, writing, and meditation? How do we record and remember religious experience?