Exploring the particular nature of experience that underlay religions led to the sixth turn, the turn to spiritual experience. While religious symbols date back to the Paleolithic, the experience they represent only came into explicit focus during antiquity. The new focus resulted from the discovery of the spirit, which became the key medium of religious or spiritual experience in its true sense.

The Road to Spiritual Experience

In the Paleolithic the transcendent appears, e.g. in burials or in theriomorphic figures, as the Other Side in immediate vicinity to the world of the living. In cosmological cultures, the gods and demons reside in extreme distance. With prophetic experience, this “deus distans”, the distant god, turned into a “deus absconditus”, a hidden God. With the noëtic turn, it became clear that transcendence is a specific form of reality, called spirit.

Spiritual Methods and Institutions

Older attempts to communicate with transcendence ranged from ecstasy to prophetic revelation. For the preservation of spiritual achievements, special institutions were formed. At first, shamans figured as religious specialists, then whole classes like priests and religious orders took over. Finally, the spiritual turn established meditation as the key method in both East and West. Since anyone could learn meditation, this method was available to all people.

Thus, the population as a whole became part of universal denominations, such as in a church. In parallel, spiritual experience was transformed into doctrine. This gave rise to a secondary form: the religion of institutions and dogmas. However, this development is ambivalent, as the focus shifts from spiritual experience to conflicts over orthodoxy and power.


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