The Personal Religious Experiences of Cistercian Monks

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William L. Smith

Abstract

Nearly seventy-five percent of the monks interviewed at a Cistercian monastery in the southeastern United States reported having had religious experiences. A micro-sociological approach was used to describe the retrospective accounts of their religious experiences, the after-the-fact interpretations they constructed, how they made those experiences meaningful, and the role cultural systems and settings play in structuring people's experiences. Religious experiences played an influential role in the monks lives and vocation journeys. Their most common religious experiences were of a quasi-sensory nature. The monks rarely, if ever, discussed their religious experiences with others.

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