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Knowing God

T.M. Luhrmann

Keywords: hallucinations; hearing God; infrastructure; mind; religion; spiritual experience; thought

My proposal is that local theory of mind – what I call here the ‘infrastructures of mind’ – shapes the way people recognize and experience supernatural presence. That is, I argue that the local cultural invitation to imagine thoughts, mental images and inner sensations in particular ways – as potent, powerful and dangerous, for instance, or as the heart of an authentic self – will affect the way people recognize and experience God’s voice. I compare interview data from similar churches in the US, Ghana and Chennai, to show that there are systematic differences in the way people experience God and that these differences appear to reflect culturally different understandings of mind. The often-unnoticed infrastructures of the thing that thinks – the way we think about our thinking – alters not only our mental experience but also the very texture of our reality.

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