Steps Toward a Sociology of Religious Experience: The Theories of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Alfred Schutz
Sociology and Anthropology
Sociologists of religion, in their concern for the social effects of religious institutions and the functions of religious meaning systems for people's identities, have neglected to study religious experiences. This paper explores Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's theory of flow experiences and Alfred Schutz's theory of the tuning-in relationship as possible approaches to studying the experiential dimension of religion. Csikszentmihalyi's notion of “the flow experience,” while ultimately reductionist, focuses on the nonconceptual side of autotelic activities. Schutz's analysis of musical performance elucidates the preconceptual sociality of all experiences shared in inner time. We suggest that both theories offer conceptual tools that can be applied to religious experiences. Taken together they suggest an approach for sociologists attempting to explore this hitherto neglected domain.
Sociology of Religion
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