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The Bible in American Life$
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Philip Goff, Arthur Farnsley, and Peter Thuesen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190468910

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190468910.001.0001

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Feeling the Word

Feeling the Word

Sensing Scripture at Salvation Mountain

Chapter:
(p.316) 27 Feeling the Word
Source:
The Bible in American Life
Author(s):

Sara M. Patterson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190468910.003.0027

This chapter explores how pilgrims to Salvation Mountain, a work of outsider religious art in the Californian desert and a sacred space for many, engage the biblical message of the artwork. It begins with an explanation of the Pentecostal theology embraced by the artist, Leonard Knight. This theology, grounded in the idea that the Holy Spirit can be encountered in an embodied way, shapes how the biblical messages on the mountain are communicated to visitors. Even though sight and sound play an important role in pilgrims’ accounts, touch is central to making pilgrims’ experiences feel really real. Over and over visitors suggest that they have felt the Word in deep and profound ways. Touching “the Word” inspires a sensory, aesthetic response, an embodied experience of the religious worldview offered at the mountain. Such experiences trouble the privileging of sight and sound in the study of religion and emphasize the importance of studying the materiality of religious experiences.

Keywords:   material religion, Salvation Mountain, Leonard Knight, Pentecostalism, pilgrimage, sacred space

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