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Ecstatic Experience in Pentecostalism and Popular Music

Mark Jennings

Based on two richly described case studies – a Pentecostal worship service and popular music festival – this book draws on sociology, theology and religious studies in order to understand the significance of ecstatic experience in these contexts. Interviews with performers in both settings, together with detailed first person accounts of worship services and live performances, combine to create a picture of the role of music, performance and space in catalysing ecstasy. Drawing on the work of thinkers as diverse as Michel Foucault, Emile Durkheim, Victor Turner and Friedrich Schleiermacher, this book demonstrates that religious and non-religious disciplines, paradigms and understandings can work in a complementary fashion to help us understand the significance of phenomena such as music and ecstatic experience.
Ultimately, the argument put forward in the book is that ecstatic experience takes place in both religious and secular settings and is best understood by both theistic and non-theistic approaches, working together. The ecstatic experience common to both contexts is theorised as ‘proto-religious phenomena’ – the kernel from which religion may develop.
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1. Introduction


Many of us have felt music’s power to lift us out of ourselves. In 2012, some friends and I attended a gig by the English folk rock band Mumford & Sons at the Belvoir Amphitheatre, about an hour outside of my home city of Perth. It had been a long drive, and the usually glorious Perth weather had started to turn bleak and drizzly. My friends and I were totally unprepared, and found ourselves having to purchase ill-fitting ponchos as a precaution, should the threateningly dark sky suddenly schism and deluge us. To make matters worse, the band themselves were having a bad day – someone had stolen some of their equipment, so some of them were using borrowed instruments and amplification.

Not the ingredients for a great gig. And yet, inexplicably, I realised a few songs in that I was no longer aware of the temperature, or how soaked my jacket and shirt were getting, or even the fact that I had run out of beer. Once again, at a time when I had least expected, the experience that one of the respondents in this book calls ‘that feeling of exaltation’ had happened again. My friends, the crowd and the band were swept up in a shared experience of ecstasy – a word which literally means ‘to stand outside oneself.’ Barriers were down, weather conditions no longer mattered – we were all together carried away by the sound into an inchoate pleasurescape. As quickly as it began, sadly it was...

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