Embodiment, Emotion and Religious Experience_ Religion, Culture and the Charismatic Body

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Transcript of Embodiment, Emotion and Religious Experience_ Religion, Culture and the Charismatic Body

UniversitatsbibliothekJohannChristianSenckenberg

Chapter28:Embodiment,EmotionandReligiousExperience:Religion, CultureandtheCharismaticBodyPhilipA.MellorWhatdoesitmeantobereligious?Thisisthemostbasictheoreticalquestionthatconfronts anyoneattemptingtostudyreligiousphenomena,andonethatsociologistshavesoughttoanswer invariousways.Theyhavestressedtherelativeimportanceofeitherbeliefsorpractices, establishedtightorlooseboundariesbetweenreligionsandothersocialorculturalphenomena, anddivergedsharplyoverissuessuchasthedegreetowhichreligiosityshapes,orisshapedby, itssocialandculturalcontext.Whathasoftenbeenneglected,however,isthefactthatreligionis anembodiedphenomenon:notonlydoesitsmeaningfulnessforindividuals,anditsvariousforms ofsocialandculturalimport,dependuponhumanbodiesthatareabletobelieveandactin particularways,butitcanalsobestatedthatallreligions,thoughindifferentways,consciously seektoshapebodilyexperiences,actionsandwaysofthinking. Thoughtherehavebeenexceptions,therelativeneglectofreligiousexperienceasanobjectof sociologicalstudyissignificanthere,sincethismostobviouslydirectsourattentionto embodiment.WhatIshallsuggest,infact,isthatafocusonexperiencecanhelpilluminatethe embodiednatureofbeliefsandpracticestoo,aswellasotherissuestodowiththespecific character,boundariesandculturalcontextsofreligiouslife.Althoughsomereligiousforms emphasisetheimportanceofexperiencemorethanothers,justassomestressbeliefabove practiceorviceversa,theexperientialaspectsofbeingreligiouscannotultimatelybeisolated from,orsubordinatedto,beliefsandpractices.Allthreeaspectsofbeingreligiousareintimately, andinextricably,relatedtotheinherentcapacitiesandpotentialitiesofbodies,andthevaried patternsofsocialandculturalshapingtowhichtheyarenecessarilysubject.Thepurposeofthis chapteristomakeacontributiontowardsthedevelopmentofthesystematicanalysisofthese relationships. Theargumentsofferedherearemadepossiblebytheburgeoningliteratureinthesociologyofthe bodyoverthelastfewdecades.Thishas,ofcourse,resultedininnumerabletheoretical approachestothesubject,manyofwhichareincommensurate,andofmoreorlessusefulnessfor thestudyofreligion.Afteracknowledgingcontinuingdifficultiesinapproachestothebodyandhow theserelatetoreligion,however,Istructuretherestofthischapterwithregardtosixmodelsof embodimentthat,takentogether,canofferaproductivewayforwardforfuturestudies.The presentationofeachmodelinvolvesacriticalaccountofthekeytheoreticalarguments,and suggestionsabouthowthesecanhelpilluminatethecharacterandfunctionofspecificallyreligious phenomena.Thesesixmodelsarefocusedonthefollowingissues:(1)theprimacyofthe emotionaldimensionsofembodiment(2)thepermeabilityofbodieswithregardtooutsideforces (3)thelearningcapacitiesofbodies(4)thepowerofmimeticmodelswithregardtoreligious experience(5)themindfulcharacterofbodiesinthesensethatcognitivefactorshavetobeseen asfullyintegratedintoembodiedexperienceand(6)theglobalnatureofbodies.Inthelattercase, Iusethewordglobalintwosenses:first,inthesensethatallhumanbeingssharethesame embodiedpotentialitiesandpropertiesandsecond,inthesensethataspectsofglobalisationoffer newopportunitiesforappreciatingthecomplexrelationsbetweenembodiedpotentialitiesand culturalprocesses. ThroughoutthesediscussionsIhaveelectedtodrawprincipallyuponcharismaticformsof Christianity,looselyunderstood,toilluminatethetheoreticalargumentsassociatedwitheach model.ExperiencesofSpiritpossession,tranceandotheralteredstatesofconsciousnesshave beentracednotonlytothepentecostalChristianchurchesoftheActsoftheApostlesinthe BiblebutalsotoJesushimself(Davies,1995).ThelatetwentiethcenturydevelopmentofChristian formscentredonintenseexperiencesofbeingfilledwiththeHolySpirit,however,manifestin speakingintongues,sacredswoonsandgiftsofhealing,arenotableforanumberofreasons.

First,theyareofgeneralsociologicalinterest:suchformsaregrowingsorapidlyacrosstheworld today,particularlyintheSouthernhemisphere,thattherehavebeenclaimsofanewreformation (Jenkins,2002:7Cox,1995).Second,althoughthemodelsofembodimentdevelopedinthis chaptercould,withmodifications,beappliedtoanyformofreligion,charismaticformsareof particularinterestinthattheyhaveanespeciallystrongfocusontheexperientialdimensionsof Christianity,andcanbeseenaspartofabroaderresurgenceofemotionallyorexperientially centredformsofcommunity(McGuire,1982HervieuLger,1993Hunt,2001Gumbel,2002 Watling,2005).AthirdfactorthatmakescharismaticChristianityofparticularinterest,however,is thefactthat,asaglobalphenomenon,itoffersvaluableinsightsintoembodiment,religionand culturethatmightnotbepossibleotherwise.AsBeckford(2003:207)notes,infact,oneofthekey pointsofinterestaboutcharismaticChristianityasaglobalphenomenon,whichhasnotbeen discussedcriticallyinthemajorstudiesofit,isthatspecificformsofembodimentrecuracrossa rangeofotherwiseverydifferentcultures.Throughthemodelsoutlinedinthischapter,Ishall attempttofillthegapinthisliterature. Initially,however,itisimportanttonotehowproblematicthenotionofthebodyhasbeenin sociology,evenwithincontemporarybodystudies.Indeed,thecharacteristicambivalenceshown towardsreligionbymanymainstreamsociologistshasalsobeenevidentwithregardtothebody, inthatithasoftenbeendefinedbyitsrelationshiptoothersocialandculturalphenomenarather thanwithregardtoitsowndistinctproperties.Itisinthissensethatwecantalkofthe absent/presentbody.

TheAbsent/PresentBodyThelatterdecadesofthetwentiethcenturysawaremarkablegrowthinthesociologicalinterestin thebody,thoughasignificantfeatureofthisinteresthasbeenthefactthat,despiteitsapparent ubiquity,thebodyhasremainedanelusive,indeterminatephenomenon(Leder,1990Shilling, 1993,2005).Onewayofaccountingforthisabsence/presenceisbynotingthatthebody's significancewasusuallyemphasisedinrelationtoarangeofother,moreestablished,concerns. Theseincludedthecommodificationofthebodyinconsumerculture,feministanalysesofgender andsex,andtechnologicalandgovernmentalattemptstoregulateandcontrolbodies(Shilling, 2005:2seeFeatherstone,1991Grosz,1994Turner,1984,1991).Althoughsuchstudiesdid muchtofostersociologicalinterestinthebody,thefocusonrepresentationsorimagesofbodies, analysedinrelationtodeterminativesocial,culturalorpoliticalprocesses,oftenmeantthatbodies becamestrangelyemptyofanyrealmaterial,sensual,emotionalandcognitivecharacteristics. Morepositively,however,despitetheselimitations,thebodywasseenassomethingcentrally implicatedindebatesaboutmodernity,postmodernityand,increasingly,globalisationprocesses. Itisinthiscontextthatmanyofthesebodystudiesreturnedtoclassicalsociologicaltheoriesof modernityandfoundwithinthemanattentiontoembodiedfactorsthatremainedhighlyrelevantto thepresent,particularlywithregardtothecritiqueofthecognitivistandrationalistdimensionsof postEnlightenmentWesternthought(Turner,1984Shilling1993Grosz,1994MellorandShilling, 1997). Thissociologicalinterestinthecorporealconstituentsofmodernitymirroredsimilardevelopments inanthropologicalstudies,wherecritiquesofWesterncognitivismcombinedfruitfullywithdataon nonWesternpeoples,aswellasfreshstudiesofpremodernEuropeancultures,tomapoutthe variouswaysinwhichsenseexperiencesandcultureshaveinteractedacrossahugerangeof differentcontexts(Howes,1991Classen,1993).Thisrenewedinterestinthebodyalsogaverise tonewvisionsofthesociologicalimportanceofreligion,focusedespeciallyupontheembodied dimensionsofritual,disciplinaryregulationsofthebodybyreligiousinstitutions,andthewaysin whichreligiousdevelopmentshaveservedtoreshapeandreformtheexperienceofembodiment acrossWesternhistory(Asad,1983,1988McGuire,1990Turner,1991Bell,1992Mellorand Shilling,1997).Thecloserelationshipbetweentheemergenceofbodystudiesandtheresurgence ofsociologicalinterestinreligionwasnotaccidental,however,butindicativeofthefactthatthese subjectshadbeeninextricablyentwinedforanumberoftheclassicalsociologicaltheorists. Itisundoubtedlythecasethat,throughoutthetwentiethcentury,thesecularisationthesis,inits manyvariants,constitutedthedominanttheoreticalparadigminthesociologyofreligion,andthat thisfosteredtheincreasingmarginalityofreligiontothecoretheoreticalandsubstantivefociof sociologyingeneral.TheargumentsofMaxWeber(1991),oneofthemajorfoundingfiguresof sociology,concerningtheincreasingrationalisationanddisenchantmentofthemodernworld,were decisiveinfluencesinthisregard.Nonetheless,rereadingWeber'sworktoday,itisclearthathis argumentsaboutthesocialandculturaleffectsoftheReformationarenotsimplytodowith

transformationsinbeliefs,butwithareformationofembodimentinvolvingthedisciplining, regulationandindividualisationofbodiesmarkedlydifferenttotheCatholicengagementwith humanembodimentinthemedievalperiod(MellorandShilling,1997).Itisalsonotablethat Weber's(1968)notionofcharisma,whichoffersthecounterpointtorationalisationinhisaccount ofsocialcreativityandcontrol,isexpressiveofspecificexperiences,powerandauthoritythat comethroughthebody.Althoughhestressedthewaningsignificanceofcharismaas rationalisationprocessesdeveloped(Weber,1968:11469),thisisnowincreasinglyquestioned, justashisaccountofthedisenchantmentoftheworldisnowconsideredproblematic. Lindholm(1990),forexample,exploresthecontinuingsignificanceofcharismaasasourceof socialcreativityinvariouscontexts.Healsonotesthatcharisma,inWeber'swork,andcollective effervescence,inthatofmileDurkheim,havesimilarrolesinthatbothareembodiedsourcesof socialcreativity.Theformerlocatesthiscreativitywithinindividuals,however,whilethelatter associatesitwithgroups.WebertookthenotionofcharismafromChristianity,whereithad referredtothegiftofgrace.Thiscouldtakevariousforms,thoughwasassociatedparticularly withthecharismaofordination,conferredbyabishopthroughthelayingonofhands.Inthis context,contrarytoWeber'sunderstanding,thecontagiousfeaturesofcharismaarenot associatedonlywithspecificindividuals,butareembodiedtransformationsofamorecollective nature,andmakesensemoreintermsofDurkheim's(1995:326)understandingofconsecrations asthediffusionofsacredcontagionthroughphysicalcontact.ForDurkheim(1995:328),the foundingfigureofFrenchsociologyand,alongwithWeber,ahugelyimportantinfluenceuponthe