This article discusses how women in Finland, the happiest country in the world in 2019, use new spiritual services and angels to cope with everyday life. Should not the high living standard and level of happiness decrease spirituality, as Norris and Inglehart suggest? The research material was collected using questionnaires in talks given by Irish mystic Lorna Byrne in Helsinki in 2011 and 2015. For the women studied, angels offer support and bring enchantment to their lives in a way institutionalized religion does not. While the high level of existential security decreases their religiousness, it opens these women up to other alternatives for new spirituality.
The status-dependent access to information results in multilevel meaning construction in a charismatic Christian group. The notion of ‘angel’ is discursively transforming (during evangelization rituals, healing, angel visions, etc.). To acquire language skills, one may encounter and accept threshold narratives. After the notion of energy was introduced into the group (2012), former ideas (‘rectangular form’ and ‘shape-changing kind’ of angels) were intermixed with it. Energy became a general, fundamental principle, but it was not obvious how they could manage its dual kind: ‘positive energy’ and the evil counterpart (‘spiritual/negative energy’). My argumentation is based on discourse analysis and cognitive semantics.
The article presents research on contemporary religiosities related to individuality and subcultural features, influenced by the processes of social change and religious diversification in the post-communist region. Its aim is to discuss individual and communal thinking (orientated to esotericism, magic, and ecology) typical for representatives of two nature-based spirituality movements—Vissarionites and Anastasians, which is expressed through concepts of New Age spirituality of Oriental origin. The concepts of energy, non-violence, vegetarianism, karma, and reincarnation are used in both movements and appear as an example of how such concepts arrived through Western cultural influences, transformed, and took root in the post-communist cultural context of New Age spirituality. The findings are based on data obtained from fieldwork in 2004–2015, including participant observation and interviews with respondents in the Baltic states and Russia.
This article explores bodily interactions, somatic experiences, and embodiment of New Age and contemporary Paganism practitioners conducting spiritual practices in the megaliths of Carnac in northwest France. Inspired from the sensory ethnography approach and applying a specific methodological framework elaborated for this study, the article argues that participants’ spiritual experiences are constructed using three main elements: somatic experience, somatic imagery, and bodily techniques. Collected data provides understanding of the practitioner’s elaboration of spiritual experience, while also suggesting further inquiries to assess sensory models prevailing in contemporary spiritual practices.
In this introductory study, we place the articles collected in this special issue on ‘spirituality’ in a more general context. In so doing, we contest the idea that alternative spirituality is best studied within the conceptual framework of the ‘vernacular.’ We argue that such an approach tends to unintentionally overstate the empirical particularities and overlook the broader aspects of the subject in question, which results in unreflexively accepting alternative spirituality’s own claim that it is ‘doctrine-free’ and ‘non-institutional’ by nature. Contrary to this claim, we show that alternative spirituality is (a) pregnant with a distinguishable doctrine despite being glocal and inventive; (b) profoundly social and effectively socialized; (c) about to be visibly socially organized and institutionalized; and (d) a way of addressing and redressing the key existential issues of human life, just as any other religion.
This paper is mainly based on interviews and observations that the author made during the process of writing a book about a hundred forms of religious and spiritual movements, teachings, and techniques in Estonia, thus being a reflection of trends and transformations of spiritual thought and practice in a country that has been repeatedly called the least religious country in Europe or even the whole world. Bringing some topical case analyses from this empirical material, the article will offer an amended interpretative framework for discussing features that are relevant in the research of Western contemporary spiritualities, for example multiple, situational, and fluctuating spiritual identities incongruent with the use of stable categories in religiosity statistics; children as important spiritual agents; mediatized liquidity and hybridity of spiritual thought being part of the ‘all-inclusive’ and ‘open-ended’ spiritual environment; and public conflicts and private symbioses of scientific, spiritual, and religious worldviews.
This article examines the ‘relational etymology’ of the term ‘secular’ relative to ‘religion’ and the role of the concept ‘spirituality’ in discursive change. Employing a relational methodology to the sociology of knowledge approach to discourse analysis, concept formation and transformation of these terms is considered as a specific matter of how the terms are positioned relative to one another in the discourse. It is found that while ‘spirituality’ first worked on the side of ‘religion’ to differentiate it from the ‘secular,’ it was later differentiated from ‘religion’ and placed in ‘secular’ discourse. This is exemplified with the case of yoga in Britain. Implications for the religion-secular relationship and the secularization thesis are explored.
Debates over intermarriages and conversions are at the heart of Jewish concerns today. International studies outline a growing number of intermarriages or their considerations within several European countries and the United States. Yet, the Nordic context in general and the Finnish context specifically are understudied. The current study seeks to fill the gap in the existing research by contributing to the field of conversion studies in general and the research in Jewish intermarriages and conversions in particular in Europe and in Finland by analyzing newly gathered ethnographic materials from the years 2019–2020 through adapting Sylvia Barack Fishman’s typology on conversionary in-marriages to the Finnish context.
The Eighth Maqāma by Yaʿacov ben Elʿazar (Toledo, ca. 1200) tells the story of ʿAkhbor, a bearded beggar-preacher who is revealed to be rich and lecherous. His sexual preference for a black maid leads his four white/Arab maids to murder him viciously, but not before taking revenge on his beard. In fact, the most notable feature of the false preacher is his gargantuan beard, which occupies a full one-third of the maqāma, and other beards are also excessively described. Following Robert Bartlett, I will relate to the beard as “social text” and explore its abundant symbolical meanings within the surrounding cultures of Islam and Judaism, as well as against the backdrop of Iberian contemporary society. Further, in order to better understand Ben Elʿazar’s manipulation of both the beard and the genre, as well as his emphasis on sexual, anal and scatological humor, I will have recourse to Mikhail Bakhtin’s theoretical discussions of “the grotesque body,” “the carnivalesque,” and to his generic model of the Mennipea.