The article presents the reconstruction of the system of criteria by Joachim Wach’s (1898–1955), created by him for definition of religious experience. The main source is the author’s translation of fragments of English-language works of the German-American classic of religious studies, which have not been translated into Russian before. The main characteristics of religious experience are singled out. In the J. Wach’s understanding, this experience is presented as an experience structured, emotionally-intellectual, ordering, situational, and integrating. The structurally functional content of the four formal J. Wach’s criteria in their connection with the concept of “numinous” introduced by R. Otto is described and analyzed. The specifics of the definition of religion, represented in the religious approach of J. Wach are considered. The author of the article proposes a new formulation of the definition of religion based on the constructions of J. Wach, in which religion is understood as the experience of life in the confront of ultimate reality. An attempt to reinterpret the methodological scheme the Wach's criteria considering the possibility of applying it in modern religious studies is made. The relationship between the concepts “religious experience” and “ultimate experience” is comprehended. The author carries out interpretation of the Wach’s criteria as criteria allowing fixing the state of “ultimation”. For this, the verbal constructs are introduced, comprising the content of the four criteria of J. Wach: “ultimate impulse”, “ultimate motivation” and “ultimate act”. The  paper notes the specific character of the religious approach of J. Wach, which consists in the iterativity of his method. The specifics allow considering the dynamic relations of the subjective and objective parties of religious experience, the combination of apriori and aposteriori aspects in the study of religiosity, the interaction of individuality and corporativity in religions, conformity of structures of human person and religious complex.

Keywords: Joachim Wach, religious experience, religious studies, definition of religion, ultimate reality

DOI: 10.22250/2072-8662.2018.1.103-117

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About the author


Irina L. KozlovaMaster of Religious Studies, Senior lector at the Department of Religious Studies,

St. John the Theologian’s Moscow Orthodox Institute; 11A-1 Chernyshevsky lane, Moscow, 127473;

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