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Exaltation

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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7. Understanding the Blues & Roots: Theological and Religious Studies approaches

Extract

This chapter builds on the case study of the WCBR from a theological and religious perspective. I will briefly outline a number of theological and religious paradigms. Using the same phenomenological pattern followed in the previous chapters, these theories will be used to illuminate ethnographic data from the festival. The purpose here is to explore the provocative thesis that festival experiences can be understood as similar in structure and function to religious or spiritual experiences. Indeed, at points I make the argument that from a phenomenological perspective, the experiences which may occur at festivals (particularly ecstatic experiences) are indistinguishable from similar experiences in “religious” contexts.

The theological and religious studies paradigms in this chapter offer further insight and illumination into the vertical nature of this realm, serving to locate the sui generis existence of a divine entity which participates in the realm dynamics. Importantly, the sociocultural theories articulated in this book do not exclude the possibility of human-divine interaction, but focus on what Durkheim nominates as “social facts” – that which can be verified empirically. Nevertheless, drawing in the work and thought of several theologians and religious scholars will offer deeper and richer possibilities for the interpretation of the realms people create through music.

The starting point, once again, is Friedrich Schleiermacher’s enigmatic conception of intuition of the universe. Schleiermacher based religion on experience, thereby broadening its application beyond the confines of organised religious practice. However, the great German thinker did perceive some boundaries for his concept,...

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