Virtually all religious traditions valorize “religious experience” (RE), but they do not embrace RE in general. Instead they promote specific experiences that they view as sources of new insight and means of transforming self and world. Traditions not only cultivate some experiences, they actively disparage others. Viewed inclusively, RE encompasses a wide range of experiences from which traditions select those they choose to valorize in any given context. Few, if any, of the experiences that traditions cultivate are exclusively associated with religion. Under different names, e.g., apparitions or ego dissolution, similar experiences might be appraised as paranormal or psychotic. Yet current measures do not routinely distinguish between generically described experiences and appraisals. This project investigates the distribution (frequency & clustering) and determinants (e.g. cultural schemas that manifest as beliefs & practices and, thus, as appraisals) of experiences that people potentially view as nonordinary in two multi-religious contexts (the US & India). If the differential valorization of experiences has a measurable effect on their distribution, the frequency and co-occurrence of specific experiences should vary based on how they are appraised in the two contexts. To test this hypothesis, our Inventory of Non-Ordinary Experiences (INOE) distinguishes between generically described experiences and appraisals, asking respondents, first, if they had each experience and, if so, how they appraised it. We seek funding to validate the INOE and collect data to evaluate differences in frequency, clustering, and appraisals in the US and India. We will present at 6 conferences and submit 5 articles for publication. The INOE will allow researchers to compare patterns of experiences within and between groups, distinguish naturally and culturally salient experiences, and assess the extent to which the categories religious, anomalous, and psychiatric are culture bound.
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