A Theory of Revelations (Stark [1999])

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Arcturus
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A Theory of Revelations (Stark [1999])

Post by Arcturus » Tue Jul 10, 2018 9:32 am

Just read an interesting academic piece by Rodney Stark. He presents a normative outline of how otherwise sane/rational individuals receive what they presume to be revelation. I know this may be offensive to some here, but I agree with many of the points he makes. While I believe I've had a at least two real mystical/spiritual experiences in my life that keep me rooted in the faith that there is a loving God, what I previously thought were spiritual experiences in my TBM days I now cannot differentiate from being caught up in the hype of the meeting and the free-flowing emotions...

He presents 12 normative hypotheses regarding how individuals receive revelation (he uses Mormonism and Joseph Smith Jr. extensively in the paper to highlight examples, among other faiths):

1) Revelations will tend to occur when (a) there exists a supportive culture tradition of communications with the divine and (b) the recipient of the revelation(s) has direct contact with a role model, with someone who has had such communications.

2) Many common, ordinary, even mundane mental phenomena can be experienced as contact with the divine.

3) Most episodes involving contact with the divine will merely confirm the conventional religious culture, even when the contact includes a specific communication, or revelation.

4) Certain individuals will have the capacity to perceive revelations, whether this be an openness or sensitivity to real communications or consists of unusual creativity enabling them to create profound revelations and then to externalize the source of this new culture.

5) Novel (heretical) revelations will most likely come to persons of deep religious concerns who perceive shortcomings in the conventional faith(s).

6) The probability that individuals will perceive shortcomings in the conventional faith(s) increases during periods of social crisis.

7) During periods of social crisis, the number of persons who receive novel revelations and the number willing to accept such revelations is maximized.

8) An individual's confidence in the validity of his or her revelations is reinforced to the extent that others accept these revelations.

9) A recipient's ability to convince others is proportionate to the extent to which he or she is a respected member of an intense primary group.

10) The greater the reinforcement received, the more likely a person is to have further revelations.

11) The greater the amount of reinforcement received and the more revelations a person produces, the more novel (heretical) subsequent revelations will become.

12) As they become successful, religious movements founded on revelations will attempt to curtail revelations or to at least prevent novel (heretical) revelations.
“How valuable is a faith that is dependent on the maintenance of ignorance? If faith can only thrive in the absence of the knowledge of its origins, history, and competing theological concepts, then what is it we really have to hold on to?”
D Brisbin

Arcturus
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Re: A Theory of Revelations (Stark [1999])

Post by Arcturus » Tue Jul 10, 2018 9:36 am

I found this piece because I was looking for information on "revelation" and "hallucination," motivated by what Hassan told Dehlin in the interview about cults. If anyone has any respectable sources on the extent to which spiritual revelation might often be hallucination I'd love to see it.

The 12 points Stark provides is fascinating. I see so much parallel to Mormonism (granted, he likely developed this framework in a large part due to his studies of Mormonism) - particularly Joseph's evolving theology and the current status quo of revelatory experiences amongst the rank-and-file members of the church (#3 - most experiences merely confirm the conventional religious culture).
“How valuable is a faith that is dependent on the maintenance of ignorance? If faith can only thrive in the absence of the knowledge of its origins, history, and competing theological concepts, then what is it we really have to hold on to?”
D Brisbin

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Corsair
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Re: A Theory of Revelations (Stark [1999])

Post by Corsair » Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:33 am

And thus we see the road map to a land opposite of objective, Aristotelian truth. This examination of revelation sounds like magical thinking on the part of blind squirrels that nevertheless managed to find a few nuts. I am deeply skeptical for revelation that is objectively meaningful for anyone beyond the person who is confidently receiving that revelation.

Author Philip K. Dick once said,
Philip K. Dick wrote:Reality is that which when you stop believing in it, it doesn't go away.
The standard of revelation is pretty shabby these days. My TBM friends and family point to the "Proclamation on the Family" being an example of revelation. The November 2015 policy was reclassified as revelation by Elder Nelson and Sister President Wendy. Does Hinckley's "one earing per ear" rule count as revelation? Is the BYU Honor Code considered "revelation" or even "inspired?"

Let's suppose that these items represent actual revelation. Can we hold anyone accountable for so many useful things that were not revealed by prophets, seers, and/or revelators? How about a firm position on stem cell research, global warming, or condemnation of immoral politicians? How about a path towards a functional way for LGBT people to remain in the church in full fellowship that does not involve existential loneliness? How about a revelation to "wash your hands" and "boil your water" when cholera was a problem during the exit from Illinois? How about an official doctrinal explanation for plural marriage and polyandry? Could we find out if there is one or more than one Heavenly Mother?

I feel like I am required to be enthusiastic for the divine genius of minor organization changes like ministering teaching and combining the priesthood quorums. It's like being excited for a small child that scribbles a stick figure version of their family for you. "Yes, dear child, we are so proud of you!" But deep down we know that stick figure revelation, like stick figure drawings, could be made up by anyone. Providing proof of divinity is left as as exercise of shame inducing social pressure burdening the average member.

Arcturus
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Re: A Theory of Revelations (Stark [1999])

Post by Arcturus » Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:44 am

Corsair wrote:
Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:33 am
I feel like I am required to be enthusiastic for the divine genius of minor organization changes like ministering teaching and combining the priesthood quorums. It's like being excited for a small child that scribbles a stick figure version of their family for you. "Yes, dear child, we are so proud of you!" But deep down we know that stick figure revelation, like stick figure drawings, could be made up by anyone. Providing proof of divinity is left as as exercise of shame inducing social pressure burdening the average member.
Can't agree with this more...
“How valuable is a faith that is dependent on the maintenance of ignorance? If faith can only thrive in the absence of the knowledge of its origins, history, and competing theological concepts, then what is it we really have to hold on to?”
D Brisbin

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moksha
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Re: A Theory of Revelations (Stark [1999])

Post by moksha » Tue Jul 10, 2018 5:23 pm

Another thought is that revelations occur when someone outside the established course of training for ministers wishes to set up his/her own ministry or harem.
Good faith does not require evidence, but it also does not turn a blind eye to that evidence. Otherwise, it becomes misplaced faith.
-- Moksha

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deacon blues
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Re: A Theory of Revelations (Stark [1999])

Post by deacon blues » Wed Jul 11, 2018 7:40 am

This sounds very interesting Arcturus. How did you access the article?
God is Love. God is Truth

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A New Name
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Re: A Theory of Revelations (Stark [1999])

Post by A New Name » Wed Jul 11, 2018 3:49 pm

While JFS was under oath during the Reed-Smoot hearings before congress, has was asked about revelation. He said ”I have never pretended to nor do I profess to have received revelations” . Later he said there had been no revelation in the church excepting the “manifesto” for at least 20 years, going back to 1882 when John Taylor received revelation on two new apostles.

Ref: Page 99 of the Congressional record, Vol 24, 1906

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Hagoth
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Re: A Theory of Revelations (Stark [1999])

Post by Hagoth » Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:15 pm

Palmyra:
5) Novel (heretical) revelations will most likely come to persons of deep religious concerns who perceive shortcomings in the conventional faith(s).

6) The probability that individuals will perceive shortcomings in the conventional faith(s) increases during periods of social crisis.

Kirtland:
7) During periods of social crisis, the number of persons who receive novel revelations and the number willing to accept such revelations is maximized.

9) A recipient's ability to convince others is proportionate to the extent to which he or she is a respected member of an intense primary group.

10) The greater the reinforcement received, the more likely a person is to have further revelations.

12) As they become successful, religious movements founded on revelations will attempt to curtail revelations or to at least prevent novel (heretical) revelations.

Nauvoo:
11) The greater the amount of reinforcement received and the more revelations a person produces, the more novel (heretical) subsequent revelations will become.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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Angel
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Re: A Theory of Revelations (Stark [1999])

Post by Angel » Wed Jul 11, 2018 9:07 pm

I have had a couple of spiritual experiences that do not fit the mold. The one that caused me to join the church in the first place, I had not been taught about what the spirit was, had no idea anyone claimed to be led by the spirit - it was out of the blue, and it scared the be-geezers out of me. Now that I am leaving the church, I have gone back to think about what that really was - I attached quite a few things to it that I should not have. I never received confirmation on any of the normal things - never had a testimony of the BoM, never had a testimony of the prophets or any church leader - the only piece of it that I can really hang on to now, I believe our birth was not our beginning, nor will death be our end. No confirmation on who G-d is, or for Jesus - just that there is this spirit world out there, and we are a part of it somehow. I think it is when you start trying to fill in extra details, and start attaching things to it - start expecting to get revelation on some specific thing - that is where you run into trouble. ... the stuff that is out of the blue, that you did not ask for, that you do not want, that scares you... haha "fear not"... I think I believe the accounts in the scriptures that contain the phrase "fear not" - they were not asking for it, they did not want it, just like me.

The other experience that will not leave me - it was not religious doctrine. I was in the shower thinking things over, had the choice of continuing my education - graduate school, or calling it "good enough". I was thinking it through, and I asked myself "If I go, will I even make it through?" Just talking to myself, and this voice tells me "you'll make it"... another scare-the-hell-out-me experience - I was but naked in the shower, it sounded like someone else was in the room with me - it was such an invasion of privacy on all levels - invasion of my personal thoughts, invasion of my naked body - I just felt violated.... sort of a "thanks for the words of support but - stay the hell away from me - kind of a thing. ... interesting language - no thee's or though's, nothing formal, it was not even a comforting voice - rather a bit chiding actually... I did make it through...

So I do believe there are spirits out there - not sure how "Holy" they are, or what kind of saving graces any of them will offer - perhaps it is as much of a mess above as it is down here on Earth... ha ha.
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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