Date of Submission

Spring 2011

Academic Program



Kristin Lane, Sarah Lopez-Duran

Abstract/Artist's Statement

The interpretation of religious experiences is an under-researched topic in psychology. For the purposes of this project, religious experiences will be defined as seeing god’s face, hearing his voice, or other extra-sensory events that bring a person closer to the divine. While these experiences have the potential to be positive and life-changing, they may be pathologized by others. Attempts have been made to distinguish pathological experiences, such as hallucinations and delusions, from sensory religious experiences, but the literature does not address how and why different social and cultural groups interpret religious experiences in the ways they do.

The first chapter will provide a background on the religious experiences studied in this project and the methods used to achieve this analysis. The second chapter will analyze the role of personal factors in the individual’s interpretation of his or her religious experience. Diagnostic tools and the effects of the clinician’s interpretation of the experience will be the focus of the third chapter. Specific cultural and community values that are relevant to the interpretation of religious experiences will be discussed in the fourth chapter. Personal interviews that describe accounts of religious experiences will be used to supplement the literature. To conclude, models that demonstrate the way that different individuals and communities interpret religious experiences will be proposed.

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