Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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A category of perception termed nonrational because it seems outside of logical reasoning.

Certain types of religious experiences, such as those described by William James, are neither rational nor irrational yet have impact on religious belief. Otto (1923) contended that the experience of the holy is beyond rational or ethical conception. Both Otto and O'Dea (1966) suggest that all religiosity is generated from nonrational religious experience. McClenon (1994) found that various unusual experiences (extra-sensory perceptions, out-of-body and near-death experiences, apparitions, night paralysis, and contacts with the dead) have universal features that appear to contribute to commonalities in religious conceptions of spirits, souls, life after death, and wondrous human capacities.

See also William James, Thomas F. O'Dea, Rudolf Otto

James McClenon


W. James, Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: New American Library, 1958 [1902])

J. McClenon, Wondrous Events (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994)

T. O'Dea, Sociology of Religion (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1966)

R. Otto, The Idea of the Holy (London: Oxford University Press, 1923).

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