Journal Article

The Holy Spirit as Conscience Collective

Matthew P. Lawson

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 60, issue 4, pages 341-361
Published in print January 1999 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 1999 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3712020
The Holy Spirit as Conscience Collective

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Catholic Charismatics often talk about “God,” “Jesus,” “the Holy Spirit,” or simply “the Lord” as an active partner in interaction. Most sociologists regard such statements as outside the epistemological purview of an empirical discipline; God is relegated to the inaccessible domain of the “specifically religious.” In this paper I suggest that “the Holy Spirit” is a manifestation of a learnable pattern of social interaction that may generate a superindividual dialogic unity, what Durkheim called a conscience collective, or what has more recently been called shared or distributed cognition. The internalization of this intersubjective process then becomes the basis for the intrasubjective experience of dialogue with the divine.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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