Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2020 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming


  • Emily StetlerEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24348-7_695

Coming from the Greek theophaneia, “appearance of god,” a theophany is a revelation of god in which the divine is mediated by sensible matter. A theophany, then, is distinct from other mystical experiences in that it involves material, rather than merely psychic, phenomenon. Indeed, in a theophany, the natural world may exhibit characteristics unable to be explained by laws of nature or unable to be replicated and verified by empirical experimentation. Further, while achievement of a mystical state oftentimes depends upon, or is at least facilitated by, entrance into a receptive emotional or psychological state, a theophanic experience does not; it seems to spring from a source external to the visionary. In scriptural accounts, theophanies seem to be an interruption of the visionary’s psychic state rather than an outcropping of it.

Nonetheless, a person can induce a hallucination that he describes as theophanic through meditation practices or the use of psychedelic drugs.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of TheologyMount St. Mary’s UniversityEmmitsburgUSA