The dialectical-theological origins of the politically- and ethically-charged concept of alterity are well-known within the philosophy of religion. Intellectual histories of this concept tie it too exclusively to the notion of distance or διάστασις in Karl Barth’s early Römerbrief, however, and so miss Barth’s Trinitarian reinterpretation of God’s otherness in his later work. Taking as my hermeneutical key a cipher, the ‘sign of Jonah,’ that emerges in Church DogmaticsIV/1, I show that Barth’s mature doctrines of temporality and filiation understand alterity as a moment of divine life. Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane marks the climax of Barth’s self-reinterpretation: world history inheres within the Christological situation of paternal abandonment. The political-theological conclusions Barth draws from the ‘sign of Jonah’ dovetail with alterity discourses’ antitotalitarian aspirations but suggest that these aspirations’ structural coherence rest on the magisterial Reformers’ Christological and ecclesiological commitments.
This essay argues that a negative hermeneutics, i.e., a hermeneutics that takes its starting point from the experience of gaps, failures, and limits, is a suitable lens for the study of mysticism. It uses the concept of travail of the negative, which focuses on dynamics of a continuous ‘unsaying’ and ‘subverting’ of traditional expressions of faith and religious practice, to explore the connection between aspects of practical and theoretical negativity in mystical expressions. It suggests that this approach to mystical theology makes an important contribution to the wider theological discourse and encourages theology to take the fundamental character of negation seriously.
The debate over repatriation has only recently come to European attention. Arguments against it still prevail and rely on the interpretation of the things involved as universally appreciated pieces of art or craft, which have to be stored accordingly. However, at least from the Nigerian context, many intellectuals see these objects as proof of their history before colonization. Thus, the objects represent the desire to be free of the ongoing negative impacts of colonization. The article argues that these debates cannot be properly understood if the materiality and weight that these objects acquired over time and in global exchanges is not considered. In light of material religion, new materialist and global religious history approaches, the article turns to an example, which has been forgotten in repatriation discussions: the findings at Ile-Ife from the late 19th century to the 1960s. Materialization, in this context, is an intra-active, politically charged, and comparative process.
Cultural encounters, entanglements, and comparisons were the driving force behind the formation of a global history of religion. Such encounters require the formation of comparative concepts; for Europeans, the most important of these was ‘religion’ . With European expansion, and especially its forays into Asia starting in the late fifteenth century, ‘religion’ gradually became a general term to describe a distinct subset of human culture, with encounters between European missionaries and the Japanese people playing a decisive role in this regard. Arguably, the ultimately failed attempts of the Christian mission led to the emergence of analogous comparative concepts on the Japanese side, too. As a side effect, the encounter with Christianity brought about an individualisation and confessionalisation of Buddhism. From here, it was only a small step to the ‘religionisation’ of Buddhism in the nineteenth century – and, thus, to its integration into a global religious system.
This paper presents new research about spiritual experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim is to discuss the impact of spiritual experiences on people’s lives and relationships. Building upon William James’ four features of the “fruits” of religious experience as a conceptual frame, the paper presents data from two surveys in which participants narrated spiritual experiences and reflected on the impacts of those experiences. We start with a short presentation of James’ ideas about the fruits of religious experience. The next section outlines four themes that have emerged from the narratives of spiritual experiences during the pandemic: impacts on people’s relationships with their religious communities, shifts in one’s subjective sense of spiritual connection and intuition, encounters with spiritual figures and near-death experiences, and interpretations of COVID-19 as a spiritual contagion. The final section broadens the discussion from the impact of specific spiritual experiences to include spiritual responses to the pandemic more generally, leading to a discussion of the experiences within the wider debate in fruits of religious experience.
Along with the critique of generic terms, such as religion or mysticism, regarded as Western-centric, comparison in religious studies has been faulted for reinforcing Western dominance over the rest of the world. Global Religious History claims to constructively address these charges by focusing on global entanglements. On closer inspection, however, if the latter are theorized at all, an astounding exclusion comes to the fore: the omission of gender as category of knowledge. Engaging this phallogocentrism in Global Religious History, this article calls for a conceptualization of global entanglements that takes this omission seriously. As a case study, I use a tract published serially in a Singapore-based Islamic missionary journal (1938–1941), to argue that a revised conceptualization of global entanglements can help to uncover the contributions of non-hegemonic subjects to contemporary discourses on religion, mysticism, Islam, and Sufism, as well as to the comparative study of religion.
This article scrutinizes the history of “esoteric” and “occult” as comparative terms and outlines a concrete methodology for their examination and potential practical application, based on the theoretical framework of Global Religious History. My main argument is that “esoteric” and “occult” are today de facto comparative terms that are employed worldwide within and beyond academia. Similar to the case of “religion,” they are not the result of the unilateral diffusion of “Western” knowledge but of globally entangled exchanges that can serve as concrete objects of research. Their synchronic and diachronic historical contextualization forms the basis of the development of substantiated comparative terms and their (experimental) application in different contexts. Departing from scholarship on “Western esotericism,” “esoteric Buddhism,” and “the global occult,” the article outlines a five-step methodology that illustrates the practical use of Global Religious History for religious comparativism based on concrete historical examples.
Adorno and Benjamin’s common intellectual project has been labeled, by Adorno, an Inverse Theology. This re-translation of theology into it’s metaphysical truth contents can be only fully comprehended by taking into account their position towards the work of art. In this article, I locate the place where the categorical framework of “inverse theology” is displayed in a most complete manner in the discussion of Kafka’s prose and extrapolate the outline of an Inverse theology from Adorno and Benjamin’s readings of some of his most famous texts.
In the last fifty years there has been an increasing interest in alternative “spiritualities” in the European context, which have crystallised to a significant extent around “Eastern” religious forms. Whereas an important impulse has certainly been given in this respect by Orientalist views, the role played by missionaries in the transmission of Asian religious forms to Europe has been equally important. Still another major factor behind the transmission of “Eastern” religions to Europe is migration, which is becoming more and more relevant with the increasing number of immigrants from Asian countries. Against this general framework, the articles collected in this special issue attempt to shed more light on selected aspects of Asian religions in the European context, with particular attention to institutional, semi-institutional, and more informal practices, still relatively understudied areas (e.g., parts of Eastern Europe), and broad historical developments.
Founded in the countryside an hour from Bordeaux, France, by Thích Nhất Hạnh, known for his engaged and modern Buddhism, Plum Village is famous throughout the world for its mindfulness meditation retreats. Although many studies have been carried out on Thích Nhất Hạnh’s history and spirituality, none has addressed the question of the territorial implantation of Plum Village on a local scale, nor the processes of the worldwide diffusion of its network. After presenting the context of the penetration of Thích Nhất Hạnh’s teaching in the West, I explore the establishment of an exogenous religious community in the French countryside in terms of otherness and analyse the communication at play in the process of integration into the local scale in its municipalities in New Aquitaine, and then look at the strategy and means of communication put in place to to federate and expand its network on a global scale.