RELIGIOUS and spiritual experiences are very common but difficult to study, so academics at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s Faculty of Humanities and Performing Arts have published a book that addresses the problem and shows how to approach the topic from different disciplines.
The edited volume:
‘The Study of Religious Experience: Approaches and Methodologies’ presents an overview of approaches and methods to the study of religious and spiritual experiences, with a range of chapters written by scholars from different disciplines including anthropology, philosophy, religious studies, theology, and biblical studies.
It has been edited by Bettina Schmidt, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).
The book takes the work of Sir Alister Hardy – recipient of the Templeton Prize in 1985 for his work on religious experience – forward, by showing how to study religious and spiritual experiences in the 21st century. The aim of the book is to show how a range of disciplines including anthropology, philosophy, religious studies, theology, biblical studies and history approach the topic of religious experience, what their contributions are to the study of religious experience are and how that approach can be applied.
Sir Alister Hardy, a renowned scientist, approached the complex field of religious and spiritual experience from a similar disciplined and scientific manner in which he approach natural science. Asking people from the public to send him accounts of first-hand experiences with spiritual or religious powers, he established the Religious Experience Research Centre that has been since then at the forefront of the academic study of religious experiences. This book takes his work forward and shows how to study religious and spiritual experiences in the 21st century.
Each chapter in the book presents a different approach, with each author providing insights into the field with an original empirical case study and details about a specific method to study religious experiences.
The Study of Religious Experience: Approaches and Methodologies is linked to the Religious Experience Research Centre which is located on the Lampeter campus of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. The Director of RERC, Professor Bettina Schmidt, organised a conference in 2014 on the study of religious experience and the revised papers of the conference are included in the book, as well as further contributions from international scholars.
“Religious experience is a fascinating but also difficult research area,” says the volume’s editor, Professor Bettina Schmidt.
“It looks at internal experiences that cannot be scientifically proven but, as we show in this book, scientifically studied. This book presents a range of academic approaches to the study of religious and spiritual experience, from quantitative and qualitative perspectives within anthropology, hermeneutical approaches in Biblical studies, theology and philosophy, to the use of cyberspace and the own body during fieldwork. Together they demonstrate the richness of the field of religious and spiritual experience,” continues Professor Schmidt.
Among the contributors are several members of the University’s Faculty of Humanities and Performing Arts, such as Dr Catrin Williams, Dr Gary Bunt, Dr Robert Pope, Dr Fiona Bowie and Dr Tristan Nash. Also involved are Dr Emily Pierini and Dr Gregory Shushan who are both honorary research fellows of UWTSD. The book presents the first joint publication of the research cluster Spirituality, Well-being and Health of the Faculty of Humanities and Performing Arts.
Professor Peggy Morgan at Oxford University says that the book is ‘a rich and welcome addition to the literature which has something for anyone with a serious interest in this area of investigation’.