Contemporary Perspectives in Philosophy of Religion
Edited By Sebastian Kolodziejczyk and Janusz Salamon
The Spiritual Senses in Western Spirituality and the Analytic Philosophy of Religion
William J. Wainwright
The concept of the spiritual senses has played a significant role in the history of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox spirituality. It goes back at least as far as Origen, and figures prominently in the work of theologians as diverse as Bonaventure and Urs von Balthasar. What is less well known (indeed almost totally unremarked) is that the doctrine also played an important role in some classical Protestant thought and spirituality. This is important for it suggests that the doctrine is (or at least should be) an important feature of Christian spiritual theology in general, and raises the question of whether similar concepts can be found in other theistic traditions. In spite of its importance, however, the concept has been almost totally neglected by analytic philosophers of religion. My essay will be divided into three parts. I will begin by examining the only treatment of the doctrine by an analytic philosopher that I am aware of (namely, Nelson Pike’s). I will then show how the development of the doctrine of the spiritual senses in Puritan thought and spirituality fills a serious lacuna in Pike’s treatment, and conclude by saying a few words about where I think the discussion should now go.
I. Pike and the Spiritual Senses
The first two chapters of Nelson Pike’s Mystic Union1 describe what are commonly regarded as the three principal forms of mystical prayer. The soul is directly aware of God in each but...
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