Life-world and Religious Consciousness

Sebastian Velassery
Panjab University, Chandigarh

My paper is concerned with five main issues. First, I am endeavouring to expound the Husserlian exposition of the concept of life-world by referring especially to two of his important works, Cartesian Meditations and Crisis. Second, I am tracing the philosophical connection between the concepts of life-world and religious consciousness in the intellectual front and argue that phenomenological distinctiveness in speaking about religion and religious consciousness is grounded on the aspect of transcendent apart from the social which are generally said to be the two inseparable aspects of every religion. I shall defend my position by suggesting that Phenomenological approach to religion is meant to search and uncover certain element in human consciousness where religion may be demonstrated and thereby establish a relation between religion thus located and its appearing to human subject as a phenomenon. This is to suggest that life-world in religious consciousness is to elucidate religion in terms of the dynamics of consciousness. It demands to retain a sense of mystery with the idea of holy. The categories important for such an investigation are the pre-theoretical natural attitude and an environing world, so to say, ‘the world of immediate experiences’, which are prior to any conceptualization. Thus, the concept of life-world emerges as an inseparable part of religious consciousness because religious experiences are constituted by human praxis wherein the psychical and the physical aspects are fully integrated. Fourth, I would like to argue that such an understanding of life world as lived experience is an action space, where my cognitive capacities and other aspects of human activities provide meaning including religious meanings. What is intended to suggest is that apart from the abstract space of geometry, so to say, the ‘Euclidean space’, there is an action space that unravels one’s religious experiences because all experienced space is action space. To substantiate this point of view, I take recourse to the concept of Self-knowledge in the Upanishadic tradition. Fifth, I am particularly sensitive with the application of ‘life-world’ to religious consciousness which requires a cautious appraisal of few phenomenologists of religion such as Rudolff Otto, G. Van der Leeaw and Mircea Eliade. Thus, I propose to develop a thesis that the appearance of the incomprehensible is taken to be the necessary element in human self-comprehension with regard to religious consciousness. Accordingly, the subjective must be apprehended objectively.