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After analyzing multiple reports of spiritual experiences, I've identified two general categories:

  1. Bodily manifestations: shaking, jerking, trembling, contorting, etc. (see this related question for examples).
  2. Intense euphoric emotions and sensations: "waves of electricity", "heat", "fire", as well as emotions such as love, peace, joy, etc. (see this related question for examples).

I know several testimonies in which both experiences (bodily manifestations and intense emotions) are reported to have happened concurrently, but I also know testimonies in which only intense emotions and sensations are reported (with no mention of bodily manifestations), and there are also many live recordings of individuals undergoing intense bodily manifestations externally, but we have no way to tell what kinds of emotions and sensations the individuals felt internally (if they felt anything at all).

In the context of spiritual experiences: are bodily manifestations and euphoric emotions and sensations independent phenomena (which may or may not co-occur), or are they inherently tied (and hence they always co-occur)?

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An inherent problem with the line of investigation is that the exhibited behaviours are inconsistent with the claimed emotions. In no other situation do the emotions of love, peace, ecstasy and euphoria result in the performance of behaviours such as glossolalia, collapsing, fainting, trembling, jerking, convulsing, contorting and shaking. More likely causes of involuntary jerking, convulsing, contorting and shaking may include anxiety, seizure, and myoclonus. Given the incongruity and incompatibility of the emotions and behaviours, it may seem that they are entirely unrelated; however, it is possible that there is an antecedent cause of both. To assist with this analysis, the following mathematical notation is introduced:

  • Let R be the reporting of particular emotions (love, peace, ecstasy and euphoria). Note, that the reported emotions may not be the actual emotions.
  • Let B be the performance of the behaviours (glossolalia, collapsing, fainting, trembling, jerking, convulsing, contorting and shaking).
  • Let C be the cause of R under certain conditions.
  • Let C be the cause of B under certain conditions.
  • Let A be the actual emotions (not necessarily the reported emotions R).

Analysis

  • If C always causes R and always causes B, then R and B will always co-occur.
  • If C causes B under certain conditions and C causes R under different conditions, then B and R will not necessarily co-occur.

Note: In this analysis, it is important to note that the reporting of emotions (R) is not the same as actually experiencing the emotions (A). For the reasons given above, it is asserted that the reported emotions (R) can not cause the behaviours (B), and by implication, the reported emotions (R) are never the same as the actual emotions being experienced (A). See dramaturgy and self-monitoring as a possible explanations of this.

In the answer to one of your earlier questions, eight strawman hypotheses were offered to explain the claimed emotions (R) and observed behaviours (B):

  1. Unidentified invisible force.
  2. Hysterical state induced by the leader
  3. Hysterical state induced by the individual:
  4. Conformance to the social norms
  5. Functional Neurological Disorder (FND)
  6. Paid actors
  7. Hypnosis
  8. Attention seeking

Of the eight hypotheses, six were excluded as being implausible, leaving only 4) Conformance to the social norms and 8) Attention seeking as being plausible explanations, which I will consider individually.

Conformance to the social norms: In this case, the cause (C) is the desire to conform. Whether C results in R and B would be governed by the social norms of the particular religious group. It may be possible for one particular religious group to emphasise the reporting of emotions (R) and place less emphasis of the behaviours (B) (or vice versa), in which case, the answer to your question is “No”, that is, the observed behaviours and reported emotions do not necessarily co-occur. However, in religious groups that emphasize both the reporting of emotions and the performance of the behaviours, then it is more than likely that both will co-occur.

Attention seeking: In this case, the cause (C) is the desire to gain the attention of others. Whether C results in R and B would be governed by whether the attention seeking individual assessed that either or both R and B are necessary to gain the desired attention. The attention seeking individual may be seeking the attention of only one person, a sub-group, or the entire religious group. If the attention seeking individual is seeking the attention of the entire group, then the analysis is virtually identical to Conformance to the social norms analysed above. If the attention seeking individual is seeking the attention of only one individual, then the attention seeking individual would assess whether B and/or R are necessary to gain the desired attention. In this situation, it is not possible to say that R and B would always co-occur, however, if the interaction occurred in the confines of one of the relevant religious groups, then it seems more likely that the R and B would co-occur.

In conclusion, it is not necessary that the reported emotions (R) and observed behaviours (B) co-occur, however, it is likely in practice that they often do due to the social norms of the particular religious cults.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Tony for the answer. I have some comments: 1) your answer starts with a claim: "[...] the exhibited behaviours are inconsistent with the claimed emotions. In no other situation do the emotions [...] result in the performance of behaviours [...] Given the incongruity and incompatibility of the emotions and behaviours [...]". Intuitively what you claim makes sense, but I think it would be helpful to make explicit the sources you are basing this claim on. $\endgroup$ – Spirit Realm Investigator Oct 21 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ 2) I appreciate that you make the distinction between reported emotions (R) and actual emotions (A), and that there is the possibility that R and A may not match. However, doesn't your analysis require that they don't ever match? $\endgroup$ – Spirit Realm Investigator Oct 21 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ I have edited the answer in response to some (not all) of your comments. $\endgroup$ – Tony Mobbs Oct 21 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ I've invested as much time on this topic as I am willing. I've enjoyed the journey of exploring this topic but further investment seems fruitless to me. Perhaps to yourself and others the topic remains worthy of further fact-finding and analysis - if so - I look forward to reading about your discoveries in the future. $\endgroup$ – Tony Mobbs Oct 25 at 23:36
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    $\begingroup$ Tony, I'm not sure if you are still interested in publishing a paper on this subject matter, but in case some spark of interest remains, I just came across this article. The main hypotheses considered by the article are 1) hypnosis and 2) altered states of consciousness. The author had personal eye witness experience visiting the so called "Toronto Blessing" and he also consulted a lot of literature during the writing of the paper. $\endgroup$ – Spirit Realm Investigator Oct 27 at 21:38

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