Angelika Malinar and Helene Basu

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion

Published in print December 2007 | ISBN: 9780195170214
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199892150 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology


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Among the many emotions that may be evoked and sought after in religious practice, ecstasy is an emotional state reserved by definition for extraordinary occasions and fields of performance and discourse. Religious ecstasy is not only expressed in poetic language using erotic metaphors or at least metaphors of desire but also evoked in the context of textual recitations and musical performances. This inclusion of erotic and aesthetic aspects can be regarded as enhancing the potential attraction of this emotion for those who practice a religion. On the other hand, this is also one reason why the guardians of religious doctrines and ethics have tended to regard ecstatic practices with skepticism. This essay discusses ecstasy and religion, focusing on possession and shamanism, ecstasy as an emotional state, and the silent ecstasy of meditation. It also examines ecstasy as the embodiment of religious emotions in rituals such as the Caitanya tradition of the Hindus and the Rafa'i brotherhood of the Sufis.

Keywords: Caitanya tradition; Hindus; Sufis; ecstasy; meditation; possession; shamanism; rituals

Article.  8888 words. 

Subjects: Sociology of Religion

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