Breakfast at the Victory: The Mysticism of Ordinary Experience

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Now my life changes and we move. Next year I will go to bible college. Case Such "divine coincidences" are characteristic of many prophetic words. A person is quietly seeking God for direction when another often unknown person approaches with a seeming answer. Although my first sources of data for presentation are those received through surveys and interviews with personal insights from participant observation being kept in the background, it may be helpful for me to recount one of many experiences I have had with prophecy to demonstrate the interplay of the "triune brain.

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It can be used to demonstrate the importance of a ritual context, reflections of the reptilian brain reflexive bodily motions , the emotional brain, as well as the cognitive brain with its left and right compartments. The scene for the prayer meeting is the living room of a small house where some 20 to 50 people gather each Thursday night. Usually the music is already playing when people arrive and make their way into the living room to sit quietly, often assuming a meditative stance.

One of the young men will eventually turn down the music, welcome those who have gathered, refer to the one-page handout which describes the minimal form of the gathering, and then briefly share about the on-going renewal.

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Often one or two people gathered will give a testimony about something that has happened to them as a result of the Thursday-night prayer time. The is once again turned up on the music and people once again assume a more meditative or worshipful stance. Some may stand; most sit; a few kneel. As the time together continues the "service" begins at 8 p.

It was within this simple context that Rick, one of the young leaders, came up to me and began to pray quietly. I had already been sensing a deep peace, which seemed to go even deeper as he prayed. When I entered the room that night, Rick who had just returned from the renewal meetings in Toronto was lying on the floor, laughing, and shaking. While praying for me, however, any manifestations were minimal. Occasionally he would cry out and jerk suddenly, as if an electric current had just gone through his body.

The deep peace continued to mount within me. Then Rick began to speak simple phrases, repeating them again and again. With each one I easily "free associated," sensing I knew exactly what "God meant" by giving Rick these words to speak. I knew from past experience that if I would have stopped Rick, asking him to elaborate further, he probably would not have been able to do so. In fact when I did try to do so on my third visit, he asked me not to say anything. In talking with me Rick might not have been able to distinguish what was his response to what I was saying and what God might want to say to me through him.

This "free association" was not asked for by Rick; it seemed to be an involuntary response of the cognitive "right brain" what was being said, often based on earlier left-brain assessments of a real situation. I was given over a dozen simple words or phrases by Rick during the first few weeks I began attending the gatherings, and in each one I felt Rick "read my mail. One of the words given to me that first night was "lighten up," which immediately recalled to mind counsel I had received but never really accepted from a therapist about two and a half years earlier.

Breakfast at the Victory : The Mysticism of Ordinary Experience by James P. Carse (1995, Paperback)

She told me that I was very serious and had probably been that way all of my life--that I really did not know how to play. I could hear her saying, "You will feel like you are going to an extreme when you "lighten up," but you will actually be on a middle course. Then there was more silent prayer, followed by "Little Margaret, come to the party. Those who observe me may think I am "entering in" i. I can sing with enthusiasm, dance, laugh, weep and assume meditative stances , but I know that I have not experienced what many others have related to me.

What is significant, as I reflected on this prophetic moment, is that Rick could not have generated any of the meaningful "free associations" using his cognitive reasoning skills. Those who give prophetic words be they "foretelling" or "forthtelling" insist they are unable to perform on command. Rick claimed that he had been very hesitant to come over to pray with me given my known position as a researcher in the renewal and especially to speak the particular phrases he felt led to speak.

That peace began as soon as I walked into the room and intensified as the evening went on. The words that were spoken and the "free association" that occurred through the workings of the "right brain" deepened the peace I had already been experiencing.

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On occasion, I felt an unexplainable warmth in my hands and then a sensation of energy--a kind of prickling sensation throughout my torso--that seemed to generate some involuntary twitching in my shoulders and upper back. Although I was aware of the movement, I was not interested in stopping it or increasing it. It seemed as normal as breathing. While physical responses during prophecy seem to vary greatly, the overwhelming sense of peace and love of God that I felt during such times of prayer seem to be emotions shared by others.

What has been demonstrated through this discussion of prophecy is how even a very simple unstructured ritual held during a living room prayer meeting can provide a social context in which the "whole" brain is stimulated, including reflex responses, emotions, intuition, and rational cognition. The brain is the physical medium through which the unobservable Spirit and spirit seem to be in a dance between work and at play.

The process described here reflects a "mystical consciousness"--one that "involves a different perspective on time, causality, and self--a different reality, considered from our ordinary point of view" Deikman It often includes an "intuitive knowing, a type of perception that bypasses the usual sensory channels and rational intellect. To try to define self --much less a healthy and whole self -- to the satisfaction of all scholars is impossible. Definitional differences among disciplines have erected a tower of Babel that is not likely to fall with this paper.

As a sociologist, I chose to approach the study of self in a manner acceptable to my chosen field. Sociologists, particularly those of the symbolic interactionist approach, do have a definition of self that is fairly well agreed upon. Simply put, "self is an object that the actor acts toward " Charon In other words, "self is anchored in our social situations"; it "arises in the first place in interactions with others"; and it "continues to be defined and redefined in interaction" As Stryker describes the process:.

Others supply us with a name, and they provide the meaning attached to the symbol. They categorize us in particular ways--as an infant, as a boy, et cetera. On the basis of such categorization they expect particular behaviors from us; on the basis of these expectations, they act toward us.

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The manner in which they act toward us defines our "self," we come to categorize ourselves as they categorize us, and we act in ways appropriate to their expectations. The term self , as used by social psychologists, thus denotes an object that arises in interaction with others and is modified in interaction with others. As such, the self is commonly treated as an object arising out of interaction rather than the subject or some pre-existing metaphysical entity.

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It is important to note, however, that the self not only arises in interaction with others but that the self is reflexive. It can interact with itself by taking its own actions into account, judging its own reactions along with those of others to these actions and by reacting to these perceptions about itself Charon ; Reynolds It should be noted that while both seem personal in scope, both do entail social dimensions. Spiritual healing often happens in ritual context through the dynamics of corporate worship, the encouragement of a preacher, the aid of a prayer team and the general support of fellow pilgrims.

As with any human relationship, interaction with the divine is ongoing. Perhaps even more common in the spiritual reconciliation with the deity are reports of knowing cognitively that sin is forgiven when a person seeks forgiveness but the cognition fails to register a corresponding affect. In the words of one enthusiastic testimony:.

Certain besetting sins of lust of the eyes and imagination and fits of anger were being dredged up like garbage and being disposed of. Then I understood--just by passively receiving--that God has a relentless, unending love for me personally and for every other person in the universe. One woman described her experience as follows:. My life has been totally changed since my first visit to the TACF. I have experienced lots of deliverance. Many of the demonic spirits had entered following sexual molestation as a 6 and 7 year old by my grandfather and after being raped at 11 years by two year-old boys.

Masturbation became a besetting sin. The pastor of the church I was attending prayed for deliverance and then took the church to the TACF in January, I have had no problems with masturbation since this time. Deliverance from shame and fear--whether or not these emotions were described as being demonic in origin--seemed to be a common experience as a result of prayer.

One middle-aged man who had been sexually assaulted at age 11 by a group of homosexuals, reported fearing that he might be homosexual and "carried a shame and fear of intimacy toward God. As he reports what happened:. I struggled with the concept of being the bride of Christ and Jesus as the bridegroom. It was shame and fear of intimacy with God.

Thursday night, during worship, I had what I believed was a vision. I was the bride; He was my husband. In this vision I sensed myself dancing with him. There was nothing sensual or fleshly about this.

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At that moment, all the shame and fear left. I had been set free from the past.

The following day, I actually danced and swayed during worship. Again I was taken to this chamber and saw myself in a flowing robe of silk, dancing a dance of worship in my spirit, even as I danced in the physical. It was a dance of love and joy, such as I have never experienced before in my life. I have never felt more pure than during these times of worship.

Since coming home, the experience has not left me.

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There seems to be a tenderness that has come from this experience that I have not had before. Opening my heart to Him is much easier and the concept of the Bride is now a blessing. The sense of shame and fear is gone. I would like to end this section with two accounts, the first of a year-old airline pilot and the second of a young homemaker, to further illustrate this often-neglected dynamic of interaction with the divine by social scientists.

We came into the first service later. The atmosphere was charged with excitement and expectation. It was as if at this point I knew why I was there. My relationship with the Lord had grown routine, and honestly somewhat boring. Of course, the problem was my heart which was so weighted down with the cares of this world. In that instant I knew that all I wanted--the only thing that was real in my life--was my relationship with the Lord.

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As I purposed to lay down everything in my life that separated me from him, I began to cry out to Him to forgive me, to change me, to deliver me. I wanted to be consumed by him! According to some, the feelings of divine love are palpable--a kind of liquid that permeates every part of the being. The following account comes from a woman who missed the entire formal service, arriving just in time for individual prayer:.