How should we interpret spiritual experiences?

May 09, 2008

Religious practices and religions involving spiritual experiences are growing in popularity around the globe. Academics too are turning their study to the practices of these religions. The interest is in understanding shamanism, trance and spirit possession from different standpoints, including, vitally, from the point of view of those taking part and from different academic disciplines.

Cultural anthropologist, Dr Bettina Schmidt, of Bangor University's School of Theology & Religious Studies is an expert in this area and has organised a Conference on Spirit Possession at the University on 16 & 17 May, which is attracting international interest.

"Spirit possession is a key practice which is common to many religions worldwide; it's a common human experience, and yet it is not fully understood and can be the cause of prejudice against certain religions. This Conference will bring experts in different religious traditions, from Indian religions and Islam to indigenous American and African religions together to present their ideas and share their new ways of studying this fascinating experience," says Dr Schmidt.

"In the past, various academic disciplines have proposed theories about such religious practices from their own viewpoint, but none have reached a satisfactory explanation of the individual experience of a believer," she adds.

Since the advent of psycho-analysis, Western culture has taken an increasingly 'medicalised' view of spiritual experiences. Other theories have looked at the function of possession- explaining the prevalence of women in these types of religious practice as providing an outlet for oppressed women - neither view provides a complete answer.

Dr Schmidt's particular interests are in women and spirit possession in Caribbean religions and how some of these Caribbean religions have migrated with populations to urban New York.

Source: Bangor University

Explore further: Best of Last Week—Increasing antihydrogen production, converting waste heat to electricity and video game brain impact

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Top UK scientists warn against EU exit

May 22, 2015

A group of leading British scientists including Nobel-winning geneticist Paul Nurse warned leaving the European Union could threaten research funding, in a letter published in The Times newspaper on Friday.

Publisher pushback puts open access in peril

May 21, 2015

Delegates at the The Higher Education Technology Agenda (THETA) conference on the Gold Coast last week heard from futurist Bryan Alexander about four possible scenarios for the future of knowledge. ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

E_L_Earnhardt
2 / 5 (1) May 10, 2008
Science is far too prejudiced to allow an unbiased investigation of this field.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.