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The Aesthetic Foundations of Religious Experience in the Writings of Jonathan Edwards and Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Aesthetic Foundations of Religious Experience in the Writings of Jonathan Edwards and Ralph... The Aesthetic Foundations of Religious Experience in the Writings of Jonathan Edwards and Ralph Waldo Emerson J. August Higgins / Oblate School of Theology I. Introduction onathan Edwards (1703–1758) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) remain central voices in North American spiritual traditions. This article is an attempt to contextualize a major vein of the North American theological and spiritual tradition concerning the intersection of aesthetics and the human experience of God. As will be argued below, both Edwards and Emerson were deeply involved in these conversations and to a large extent offer novel approaches to the tensions between the individual and community as it relates to the experience of God. To that end, this essay begins with an analysis of Edwards’s view of religious experience and its normative relation to human experience as a whole. I will argue that religious experience is for Edwards a phenomenologically observable reality with significant ontological implications. Second, I will argue that Emerson continued Edwards’s work concerning the aesthetic and normative dimensions of religious experience. However, Emerson, who was ordained as a Unitarian minister in Boston’s Second Church, eventually left the ministry in 1832 to embark on a philosophical, theological, and, as I http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png American Journal of Theology & Philosophy University of Illinois Press

The Aesthetic Foundations of Religious Experience in the Writings of Jonathan Edwards and Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Publisher
University of Illinois Press
Copyright
Copyright © University of Illinois Press
ISSN
2156-4795
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Abstract

The Aesthetic Foundations of Religious Experience in the Writings of Jonathan Edwards and Ralph Waldo Emerson J. August Higgins / Oblate School of Theology I. Introduction onathan Edwards (1703–1758) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) remain central voices in North American spiritual traditions. This article is an attempt to contextualize a major vein of the North American theological and spiritual tradition concerning the intersection of aesthetics and the human experience of God. As will be argued below, both Edwards and Emerson were deeply involved in these conversations and to a large extent offer novel approaches to the tensions between the individual and community as it relates to the experience of God. To that end, this essay begins with an analysis of Edwards’s view of religious experience and its normative relation to human experience as a whole. I will argue that religious experience is for Edwards a phenomenologically observable reality with significant ontological implications. Second, I will argue that Emerson continued Edwards’s work concerning the aesthetic and normative dimensions of religious experience. However, Emerson, who was ordained as a Unitarian minister in Boston’s Second Church, eventually left the ministry in 1832 to embark on a philosophical, theological, and, as I

Journal

American Journal of Theology & PhilosophyUniversity of Illinois Press

Published: Oct 30, 2017

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