Smelling God: olfaction as religious experience

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Abstract

Although it is commonplace within many religious traditions to talk of ‘hearing God’s voice’ or ‘seeing God at work,’ or even ‘being touched by God,’ it is less common to talk of people using olfactory language, even metaphorically, to describe their encounters with the divine, even though, if God is immaterial, it is surely true that God no more has a specific scent than he does an appearance or a sound. Yet, as this chapter will explore, there is a rich history of thinking of the olfactory sense in relation to religious experience. The chapter begins by exploring the role of olfactory experience in the Christian tradition; here we see the prominence of non-metaphorical descriptions of olfactory religious experience from a number of sources. However, a cursory glance at contemporary philosophical work on the nature of religious experience demonstrates that philosophy of religion has typically excluded olfactory experiences from their analyses of religious experience. This chapter offers a contemporary, non-metaphorical account of olfactory religious experience which draws from work in the philosophy of smell, and the cognitive penetration of perception.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Lost Sheep in Philosophy of Religion
Subtitle of host publicationNew Perspectives on Disability, Gender, Race, and Animals
EditorsBlake Hereth, Kevin Timpe
Chapter4
Pages97-119
VolumeRoutledge
ISBN (Electronic)9780429022531
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2019

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in the Philosophy of Religion
PublisherRoutledge

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