The Mystical and Sublime in Extreme Sports: Experiences of Psychological Well-Being or Christian Revelation?

Watson, Nick J and Parker, Andrew ORCID: 0000-0001-6842-3067 (2015) The Mystical and Sublime in Extreme Sports: Experiences of Psychological Well-Being or Christian Revelation? Studies in World Christianity, 21 (3). pp. 260-281. doi:10.3366/swc.2015.0127

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The aim of this article is to examine the legitimacy of claims that athletes in extreme sports may encounter the mystical and sublime, when examined though a Christian theological lens. Drawing on the works of theologians and religious studies scholars – in particular, that of Richard Zaehner (1961) – and social scientists who have written on the topic of the mystical and sublime in sporting experience, the two major themes explored are first, the differences and similarities between positive psychological states commonly reported in extreme sport, for example the ‘flow’ experience, and theistic mystical experiences articulated in the bible and in Christian theology, and, secondly, the possibility of experiencing the sublime through the nature–person interaction in wilderness settings. As to whether extreme sport experience provides access to the mystical realms of the Holy that Rudolph Otto, St Paul, Jonathan Edwards and St John of the Cross refer to, our answer is an emphatic no. That said, we wish clearly to articulate our endorsement of sports such as mountaineering, surfing and snowboarding. Within a balanced theology of leisure, they can be seen as forms of deep play, an avenue to well-being and growth, even spiritual expression in an aesthetic, creative sense that provides opportunities for meaningful, therapeutic and exhilarating wilderness experience. It is hoped that for those readers wishing to delve further into this challenging and complicated field of study, our argument will provide a ‘position statement’ that will provoke further scholarship and empirical research.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: extreme sports, mystical, sublime, well-being, wilderness
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV557 Sports
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Health, Life Sciences, Sport and Wellbeing
Depositing User: Anne Pengelly
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2016 15:09
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 09:09

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