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Religions, Volume 14, Issue 6 (June 2023) – 132 articles

Cover Story (view full-size image): Walter Benjamin wrote some of the most beautiful and famous texts on works of art by Grünewald, Dürer, Klee, and others, but he is also one of the most influential theorists dealing with the relationship between art and religion. Throughout Benjamin’s writings, the enigmatic concept of the expressionless (in German: das Ausdruckslose) can be found in contexts that are key to understanding Benjamin’s view on art and religion within a dialectic of secularization. A religious perspective on art in Benjamin results from the way in which the expressionless relates to the holy (in German: das Heilige). The expressionless is a specifically aesthetic category that can rescue the difference between the holy and the profane, granting both spheres their own rights and thereby resisting any sacralization of art in an aesthetic cult. View this paper
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54 pages, 7786 KiB  
Article
Regina Coeli—Doctrine and Iconography of the Virgin Mary’s Heavenly Royalty
by José María Salvador-González
Religions 2023, 14(6), 815; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060815 - 20 Jun 2023
Viewed by 2749
Abstract
This article aims to highlight the privileged status granted by Christianity to the Virgin Mary when considering her the Queen of Heaven. From the very early centuries of our era, this sublime title was assigned to the Virgin Mary, for her condition of [...] Read more.
This article aims to highlight the privileged status granted by Christianity to the Virgin Mary when considering her the Queen of Heaven. From the very early centuries of our era, this sublime title was assigned to the Virgin Mary, for her condition of Mother of God, by an increasing number of Church Fathers and theologians. Later, it was expounded by an uncountable number of medieval liturgical hymns. Finally, from the 12th century onwards, these textual proclamations were shaped in sculptures and paintings according to various iconographic types. The author will proceed by first analyzing a large corpus of texts by many Church Fathers, theologians, and hymnographers. Then, he will consider twenty sculptures and paintings which reflect the heavenly royalty of Mary according to five iconographic types. Full article
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17 pages, 886 KiB  
Article
A New Study on Fushi of Early Quanzhen Daoism
by Hongyi Chen and Yongfeng Huang
Religions 2023, 14(6), 814; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060814 - 20 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1497
Abstract
Fushi (服食), a method for treating diseases and nourishing life to achieve longevity, is highly valued and widely used in traditional Taoism. Regarding whether Quanzhen Taoism, a new form of Taoism founded in the Jin Dynasty (1115–1234), practices Fushi, contradictory opinions have been [...] Read more.
Fushi (服食), a method for treating diseases and nourishing life to achieve longevity, is highly valued and widely used in traditional Taoism. Regarding whether Quanzhen Taoism, a new form of Taoism founded in the Jin Dynasty (1115–1234), practices Fushi, contradictory opinions have been recorded in Collected records written on Qingyan Mountain (Qingyan conglu 青巖叢錄) from the end of the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368) and The History of the Taoist School founded by (Qiu) Changchun (Changchun daojiao yuanliu 長春道教源流) from the late Qing Dynasty (1636–1912). Today’s scholars generally believe that Quanzhen Taoism emphasizes the cultivation of heart and mind and thus has nothing to do with Fushi. This article, centered around early Quanzhen Taoism representatives Wang Chongyang 王重陽 (1112–1170) and the “Seven True Ones (Qizhen 七真)”, combines their writings, quotations, biographies, and other materials and discovers that while Wang Chongyang and others heavily criticized the traditional method of Fushi, they also carried out extensive Fushi activities and accumulated rich practical experience in areas such as taking medicine (fuyao 服藥), breathing exercises (fuqi 服氣), fasting (bigu 辟穀), dieting (yinshi 飲食), and using talismans (fufu 服符). Early Quanzhen Taoism both denied and utilized Fushi leading to a contradiction between words and deeds. The reasons for this contradiction can be attributed to two aspects: the internal alchemy thinking of the early Quanzhen Taoism that prioritized Tao over technique (shu 術), and dual cultivation of inner nature (xing 性) and life (ming 命) and prioritizing the former over the latter. Full article
14 pages, 871 KiB  
Article
Wounded Beauty: Aesthetic-Theological Motifs in the Work of Alberto Burri and Anselm Kiefer
by Isabella Guanzini
Religions 2023, 14(6), 813; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060813 - 20 Jun 2023
Viewed by 974
Abstract
In their different languages, codes of expression, practices and worldviews, art and religion share a reflexive intention to symbolize the chaos, suffering and ambivalence of the real. In particular, the aesthetic programme of Christianity has sought to combine the opposites of divine revelation [...] Read more.
In their different languages, codes of expression, practices and worldviews, art and religion share a reflexive intention to symbolize the chaos, suffering and ambivalence of the real. In particular, the aesthetic programme of Christianity has sought to combine the opposites of divine revelation attested in Scripture: chaos and cosmos, earth and heaven, betrayal and reconciliation, wounding and transfiguration, cross and resurrection, sin and forgiveness. This paper aims to explore this compositional dialectic, which over the centuries has oscillated between idealization and realism, despair and aestheticization, the ideology of pain and the mythology of redemption. In order to better understand this aesthetic religious programme in all its ambivalences and polarizations, reference will be made to two emblematic contemporary artists, Alberto Burri and Anselm Kiefer. Their aesthetic programme revolves around the memory of the suffering and wounds of history and in seeking to understand these develops a compassionate perspective on them. In their works, the artistic gesture is what saves reality from its horror and reveals a ‘wounded beauty’ that does not remove the signs of its struggle and contingency. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Theology and Aesthetics)
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15 pages, 1193 KiB  
Article
Negative Capabilities: Investigating Apophasis in AI Text-to-Image Models
by Hannah Lucas
Religions 2023, 14(6), 812; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060812 - 20 Jun 2023
Viewed by 2624
Abstract
Through a case study of images generated by Swedish artist Steph Maj Swanson using an AI text-to-image (T2I) model, this article explores the strategy of negative weight prompting in T2I models as a phenomenon of apophasis. Apophasis is a linguistic strategy commonly deployed [...] Read more.
Through a case study of images generated by Swedish artist Steph Maj Swanson using an AI text-to-image (T2I) model, this article explores the strategy of negative weight prompting in T2I models as a phenomenon of apophasis. Apophasis is a linguistic strategy commonly deployed in texts of mystical theology to express the ineffability of God through negative concepts. In this article, a comparison of apophatic strategies in mystical texts and T2I models is engaged to highlight the mutual benefit of theorising AI with the help of religious theory and concepts. With this, the article builds on previous work on the New Visibility of Religion, enchantment, and post-secularism—especially the research of Beth Singler on religious continuities in representations of AI. Recent work on AI prompt engineering, computational linguistics, and computational geometry is invoked to explain the linguistic processes of T2I models. Poststructuralist semiotics is then employed to theorise the search for the Transcendental Signified in apophatic theology. The article concludes that linguistic theology can help to elucidate technological use cases, subsequently arguing for further dialogue between scholars in artificial intelligence and religious studies, and for a revaluation of religion in the technological sphere. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mystical Theology: Negation and Desolation)
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28 pages, 5854 KiB  
Article
Belonging to the City: Alliances between Community Art and Diaconia as a Means to Overcome Segregation in a Gentrifying Neighbourhood in Amsterdam
by Erica Meijers
Religions 2023, 14(6), 811; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060811 - 20 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1130
Abstract
Between 2019 and 2021, volunteers of a local Protestant congregation in Amsterdam, professional artists, and (other) local residents organised the interactive exhibit A(t) home in the Staats. In this project, community art and diaconia joined forces using multidisciplinary methods to strengthen relations [...] Read more.
Between 2019 and 2021, volunteers of a local Protestant congregation in Amsterdam, professional artists, and (other) local residents organised the interactive exhibit A(t) home in the Staats. In this project, community art and diaconia joined forces using multidisciplinary methods to strengthen relations in the neighbourhood and to discern issues of belonging and lines of division in the changing neighbourhood. The project was situated at the intersection of an “up and coming” neighbourhood and a shrinking congregation. By analysing the exhibit, this article contributes to the development of creative, arts-based research methods in diaconal studies. Within this approach, art is never a mere illustration or a vehicle for reflection but rather a generator of knowledge. The central question is: how can alliances between community art and diaconia contribute to overcoming segregation in urban contexts? This question is informed by the process of gentrification and the search by city churches for ways to engage with urban changes. After the introduction and methodological reflections, the article describes the background and practice of the project, followed by the outcomes of the interactive exhibit. It concludes by answering the central question and mapping theoretical and practical challenges concerning alliances between art and diaconia in urban contexts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Diaconia and Christian Social Practice in a Global Perspective)
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18 pages, 853 KiB  
Article
The Neglected Place of “Totems” in Contemporary Art
by Aixin Zhang
Religions 2023, 14(6), 810; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060810 - 19 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1235
Abstract
The religious nature of Joseph Beuys’ works was ignored or intentionally avoided by mainstream criticism since his artistic practice was ridiculed for its potential spirituality. It is argued that Beuys’ works are work meditations on the issues of potential ego in totemic art, [...] Read more.
The religious nature of Joseph Beuys’ works was ignored or intentionally avoided by mainstream criticism since his artistic practice was ridiculed for its potential spirituality. It is argued that Beuys’ works are work meditations on the issues of potential ego in totemic art, which are frequent topics of theological concern. For example, what is the nature of our consciousness after death, and how does it relate to the consciousness of others? Beuys’ conceptual artworks reveal his engagement with the “witchcraft etiquette” of totemic art and his exploration of theological questions such as the relation between human consciousness and divinity, the role of sacrifice and resurrection, and the meaning of self-awareness. In other words, we can draw inspiration from the theological theories of Alfred North Whitehead and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel to examine Beuys’ choice of conceptual art through the lens of his deep self-consciousness of totem worship. In general, Beuys’ works pose an important question: how can we awaken our chaotic consciousness to new or forgotten sprouts which may rejuvenate our existence in the world? Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Conceptual Art and Theology)
19 pages, 433 KiB  
Article
Assessing Research Trends in Spiritual Growth: The Case for Self-Determined Learning
by Esa Hukkinen, Johannes M. Lütz and Tony Dowden
Religions 2023, 14(6), 809; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060809 - 19 Jun 2023
Viewed by 2062
Abstract
A review of the contemporary Australian church reveals a spiritual malaise in which passive learning has become the main staple for many church members or attendees. This sense is heightened by demographic trends over the last fifty years that reflect a sustained decline [...] Read more.
A review of the contemporary Australian church reveals a spiritual malaise in which passive learning has become the main staple for many church members or attendees. This sense is heightened by demographic trends over the last fifty years that reflect a sustained decline in Australians identifying as religious. Although commitment to Christianity is seemingly softening, this sociodemographic picture is contraindicated by other research that reflects a growing hunger for spirituality among many Australians. Given this disparity, there is an opportunity to re-examine pertinent understandings of spiritual growth. In the literature, notions of spiritual growth are conceptualised by a variety of definitions and operationalised by a range of tools and practices. Analysis suggests that many models are limited by linearity, passivity, and reductionism and do not adequately resonate with the complexities inherent in spiritual growth. This literature review extends previous research by examining the state of the art in relation to spiritual growth. The paper converges around the synthesis that heutagogy and coaching are effective twin strategies that may direct self-determined learning towards enhanced spiritual growth. This paper conceptualises opportunities for future research and thereby lays the foundation for an important emergent research agenda. This article charts pertinent perspectives and prospects. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spirituality and Positive Psychology)
15 pages, 267 KiB  
Article
The Profane Land of the Happy: On the Messianic Promise in the Work of Giorgio Agamben
by Ype De Boer
Religions 2023, 14(6), 808; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060808 - 19 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1783
Abstract
This paper provides an interpretation of the enigmatic concept of ‘happy life’ in the philosophy of Giorgio Agamben. It departs from a recognition of the ambivalence in Agamben’s use of sacred and profane terminology that informs this concept. In a decidedly Benjaminian frame, [...] Read more.
This paper provides an interpretation of the enigmatic concept of ‘happy life’ in the philosophy of Giorgio Agamben. It departs from a recognition of the ambivalence in Agamben’s use of sacred and profane terminology that informs this concept. In a decidedly Benjaminian frame, and with the help of esoteric religious images, happy life is described by Agamben as a messianic life and a blessed life, while he, at the same time, explicitly defines it as a perfectly profane life. Reading Agamben’s philosophy as aspiring to a radical transformation of our mode of being in the world, I argue that the consistency in his idiosyncratic attitude toward the sacred and profane can be shown, and new light can be shed on the nature of happy life. Beyond prevailing negative characterizations that describe what happy life is not to be, the interpretation developed in this paper argues that it positively entails an ethos of love and a practice of use. As such, the paper aims to contribute to recent attempts at analyzing the curative and promissory aspects of Agamben’s philosophy over and above its critical potential, and provide a basic outline of happy life that allows for comparative analysis with other contemporary authors on the notion of happiness. Full article
20 pages, 333 KiB  
Article
Contemporary Mindfulness and Transreligious Learning Paths of Mental Health Professionals
by Ville Husgafvel and Terhi Utriainen
Religions 2023, 14(6), 807; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060807 - 19 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1542
Abstract
In this article, we apply and assess the concept of transreligiosity in the study of formally educated and licensed psychologists and psychotherapists in Finland who integrate mindfulness practices in their professional toolkit. Our analytical focus complements the discussion on the use of religious [...] Read more.
In this article, we apply and assess the concept of transreligiosity in the study of formally educated and licensed psychologists and psychotherapists in Finland who integrate mindfulness practices in their professional toolkit. Our analytical focus complements the discussion on the use of religious and spiritual traditions as therapeutic resources by turning scholarly attention from individual coping tools to the professional skills of therapeutic work and from complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices to mainstream health care and education. In the field of mindfulness research, we add to the cumulative body of ethnographic approaches by analyzing the mindfulness-related individual learning paths of mental health professionals through qualitative interview data. Based on our analysis, we conclude that the professional skills of using mindfulness practices in secular health care and education can result from transreligious learning trajectories, in which psychologists and psychotherapists supplement science-based academic education with learning in Buddhist communities and training with Buddhist teachers. This role of Buddhist environments and resources points to a blind spot in the current understanding of adult and professional learning, in which the value and position of religious traditions as possible complementary sources of professional knowledge and skills are not sufficiently recognized. Full article
14 pages, 1174 KiB  
Article
Associations between Prayer and Mental Health among Christian Youth in the Philippines
by Fides A. Del Castillo, Clarence Darro B. Del Castillo and Harold George Koenig
Religions 2023, 14(6), 806; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060806 - 19 Jun 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 5703
Abstract
Religion/Spirituality (R/S) has been associated with mental health. Although most Filipinos are Christian, little research has been done on how R/S affects their mental health. To address this research gap, an open-ended questionnaire was conducted on forty-three Filipino Christian youths regarding their thoughts, [...] Read more.
Religion/Spirituality (R/S) has been associated with mental health. Although most Filipinos are Christian, little research has been done on how R/S affects their mental health. To address this research gap, an open-ended questionnaire was conducted on forty-three Filipino Christian youths regarding their thoughts, motives, and emotions about private prayer. Responses were coded and analyzed with the qualitative data analysis software NVivo. A traditional coding method was also employed to contextualize the data. Results show that most respondents define prayer as a way to communicate with God and personally encounter the transcendent. In general, prayer was used to express gratitude, request something, seek guidance, ask for forgiveness, or find psychological comfort. In most cases, participants prayed when they were feeling down or troubled. The majority prayed in silence and with their eyes closed. Most respondents felt calm and relaxed when praying. Many respondents also noted that their conversation with God provided comfort, reassurance, and relief. A theoretical model of causal pathways for the effects of prayer on mental health was used to examine how Filipino Christian youths’ emotional health—a component of mental health—is affected by prayer. Research suggests that prayer guides many respondents in their decisions and life choices. Prayer also may evoke human virtues, such as gratitude, patience, and honesty. For many, prayer is critical to their cognitive appraisal of stressful events and serves as a coping resource. This study has important implications for R/S as a resource for mental well-being among youth in a country with limited mental health services. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role of Religion and Spirituality in Times of Crisis)
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9 pages, 242 KiB  
Article
The Book of Job and Pastoral Intervention in Crisis
by Pavel Hanes
Religions 2023, 14(6), 805; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060805 - 19 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1037
Abstract
This article uses the Book of Job as a starting point for guidelines on how to help people traumatized by various crises find purpose and meaning in life without imposition of pre-judged solutions. Using a loose analogy between a theological discussion in the [...] Read more.
This article uses the Book of Job as a starting point for guidelines on how to help people traumatized by various crises find purpose and meaning in life without imposition of pre-judged solutions. Using a loose analogy between a theological discussion in the biblical book and the modern theories of existential psychotherapy, it makes a point of showing how both methods may fail if they are ossified into ideologies. The proposed solution is in making room for a divine intervention that is outside the scope of the pastor’s or therapist’s experience. In the Book of Job, it is Job’s personal encounter with God. Psychotherapy may use the Lacanian notion of “the Other” to open up the client towards Transcendence. In times of trauma and crisis, people are vulnerable to all sorts of emotional and spiritual abuse. That is why the call for openness towards divine intervention must be cultivated within the limits of Christian spirituality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pastoral Theology in a Multi-Crisis Environment)
18 pages, 375 KiB  
Article
Ibn ‘Arabī and the Spiritual Sīrah of Prophet Muḥammad
by Ismail Lala
Religions 2023, 14(6), 804; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060804 - 19 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1544
Abstract
While most traditional works on the life of Prophet Muḥammad focus on how his ostensible teachings and actions can be used as a template for human conduct, the thirteenth-century Sufi thinker, Muḥyī al-Dīn ibn ‘Arabī (d. 638/1240), turns his attention to the spiritual [...] Read more.
While most traditional works on the life of Prophet Muḥammad focus on how his ostensible teachings and actions can be used as a template for human conduct, the thirteenth-century Sufi thinker, Muḥyī al-Dīn ibn ‘Arabī (d. 638/1240), turns his attention to the spiritual significance and inner reality of Prophet Muḥammad. Ibn ‘Arabī argues that as the seal of the prophets, Muḥammad was not only given the Qur’an, which incorporated elements from previous revelations, nor was he just given a religion that had elements from prior religions; rather, in his very spiritual essence, he combined the essences of previous prophets. It is in this sense that Muḥammad represents the culmination of the prophetic life. In his Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam, Ibn ‘Arabī reveals the spiritual significance of all the prophets mentioned in the Qur’an, with the exception of Khālid ibn Sinān, whom Ibn ‘Arabī considers to be a prophet and dedicates a chapter to, but who is not mentioned in the Qur’an. The present paper explores how the spiritual essences of previous prophets are manifested in Prophet Muḥammad, and the ways in which this comprehensiveness is exhibited in his life. This ‘spiritual sīrah’ is all the more significant in the modern context, where spirituality is privileged over religiosity. Ibn ‘Arabī demonstrates that the spiritual basis of the life of Prophet Muḥammad cannot be extricated from his external actions. The ‘spiritual sīrah’ thus provides an antidote to the religious associational formalism that is rejected by many modern Muslims. Full article
12 pages, 227 KiB  
Article
‘Not-All-There’ in the Necropolis: Afterlife and Madness in Urban Novels
by Marija Spirkovska
Religions 2023, 14(6), 803; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060803 - 19 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1049
Abstract
The paper takes its departure point from a seemingly innocuous idiom that common English parlance uses to describe a person who has lost possession of their rational mind: “not all there.” Interrogating the locality that this deictic “there” implies, the argument juxtaposes it [...] Read more.
The paper takes its departure point from a seemingly innocuous idiom that common English parlance uses to describe a person who has lost possession of their rational mind: “not all there.” Interrogating the locality that this deictic “there” implies, the argument juxtaposes it with recent religious scholarship on the Afterlife, which posits that, by extension, from the absence of the risen Christ from the tomb, the Christian subject is essentially similarly ‘not there’. Thus, the paper treads a thin line between sacredness and profanity in attempting to map out the spatial coordinates and configuration of the imaginary realms of the life-less and mind-less, that is, the Afterlife and madness, respectively. This examination is conducted through late 20th-century literary representations of, on the one hand, the Afterlife as an urban netherworld, experienced as infernal and life-negating, and of the city perceived through a schizophrenic mind, which displays an uncanny similarity to Hell: disorienting, dissipating, and ghostly. In this manner, following recent scholarship of embodied cognition, the paper demonstrates an unexpected and hitherto unexplored affinity between the Afterlife as a key concept of conventional religious thought and madness and the mad subject as an oft-reviled cultural, social, and literary figure. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Non-sacred Spaces for Religious Practices and Spirituality)
12 pages, 244 KiB  
Article
Psychosocial Workers and Indigenous Religious Leaders: An Integrated Vision for Collaboration in Humanitarian Crisis Response
by David William Alexander and Tatiana Letovaltseva
Religions 2023, 14(6), 802; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060802 - 19 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 911
Abstract
Indigenous religious leaders can be the most trusted organic helping agents within vulnerable communities, but often lack orientation to the language and paradigms of the mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) professionals responding to their communities after a crisis. Similarly, MHPSS professionals work [...] Read more.
Indigenous religious leaders can be the most trusted organic helping agents within vulnerable communities, but often lack orientation to the language and paradigms of the mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) professionals responding to their communities after a crisis. Similarly, MHPSS professionals work within paradigms which do not always match the indigenous world views of the vulnerable people they seek to help and therefore can undermine community stability while attempting to provide a service. In parallel, the spiritual care offered by indigenous religious leaders does not always optimally intersect with evidence-based MPHSS interventions, although it is highly likely that both approaches to care provide important benefits to the community, some of which are missing or underemphasized in one or the other. Training approaches designed to orient religious leaders to the work of MHPSS are usually funded and delivered by MHPSS professionals and tend to leverage MHPSS assumptions and portray MHPSS interventions as the most important lines of effort in care. This may leave religious leaders feeling uncertain of their ability to contribute to multi-disciplinary efforts without migrating away from their own foundational assumptions about humanity, illness, and wellness. Often missing from the field is a parallel effort in training which offers MHPSS professionals insight into the efficacy of indigenous spiritual interventions of various kinds and how working alongside indigenous religious leaders can aid them in protecting against the well-known pathologizing tendencies present in their own models of care. The authors are experienced in working during and after community crisis with both MHPSS professionals and indigenous religious leaders and offer an integrated vision for combined training and combined support planning that may facilitate collaboration after crisis in vulnerable communities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Whither Spirituality?)
18 pages, 334 KiB  
Article
Intercultural Competence: Higher Education Internationalisation at the Crossroads of Neoliberal, Cultural and Religious Social Imaginaries
by Lize-Mari Mitchell
Religions 2023, 14(6), 801; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060801 - 19 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1175
Abstract
As the world is becoming more globalised, intercultural competence development within higher education is at a crossroads between the competing aims of neoliberal and cultural social imaginaries. On the one end, the global market demands graduates that are interculturally competent. Higher education is [...] Read more.
As the world is becoming more globalised, intercultural competence development within higher education is at a crossroads between the competing aims of neoliberal and cultural social imaginaries. On the one end, the global market demands graduates that are interculturally competent. Higher education is attempting to meet this demand with internationalisation endeavours, specifically virtual exchange programmes. There exists a widely held assumption that these programmes will lead to intercultural competence development. However, this article questions this assumption due to the neoliberal hegemony within which higher education functions, which emphasises market rationales. This is placed in contrast to intercultural competence development within a humanistic educational setting, which emphasises cultural pluralism. A strong link is drawn between the importance of intercultural competence and the ability of graduates to navigate diverse cultural social imaginaries. This paper argues that the neoliberal social imaginary poses a risk of trivialising the humanistic meaning of intercultural competence development in higher education to mere neoliberal cosmopolitan capital for the human consumer. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cultural and Religious Pluralism in the Age of Imaginaries)
18 pages, 354 KiB  
Article
A Preliminary Genealogy of Yoga in Italy: Between Religion and Contemporary Spirituality
by Matteo Di Placido and Stefania Palmisano
Religions 2023, 14(6), 800; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060800 - 16 Jun 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1223
Abstract
In this article, we design a preliminary genealogy of yoga in Italy, showing its positioning within the growing field of “contemporary spiritualities”, their premodern, esoteric and theosophical roots and Catholicism. Our main claim is that yoga and contemporary spiritualities as practiced in XXI-century [...] Read more.
In this article, we design a preliminary genealogy of yoga in Italy, showing its positioning within the growing field of “contemporary spiritualities”, their premodern, esoteric and theosophical roots and Catholicism. Our main claim is that yoga and contemporary spiritualities as practiced in XXI-century Italy are neither entirely new nor are they clearly an alternative to more established religions. We rely on the methods and tools of a “discursive study of religion” approach to unpack the intricacies, genealogical roots and definitional boundaries that yoga, contemporary spiritualities and religion in Italy share. More specifically, we question the novelty of contemporary spiritualities in Italy, unveiling some of their esoteric, theosophical and anthroposophical roots, presenting, in turn, a preliminary genealogy of yoga in Italy, discussing its positioning amid Catholicism and contemporary spiritualities. We conclude by reflecting on the creation, use and limits of sociocultural theorizing about interpreting and understanding the spiritual and religious field, with a specific emphasis on the overlapping and porous boundaries between the concepts of religion, contemporary spiritualities, Western esotericism and modern yoga. Full article
15 pages, 298 KiB  
Article
Crisis as Opportunity: The Politics of ‘Seva’ and the Hindu Nationalist Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Kerala, South India
by Dayal Paleri
Religions 2023, 14(6), 799; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060799 - 16 Jun 2023
Viewed by 2255
Abstract
The paper examines how Hindu nationalist social service organizations, specifically the Deseeya Seva Bharathi (DSB), reconfigured the religious conception of ‘Seva’ to advance the project of constructing a Hindu social identity during the COVID-19 pandemic in the state of Kerala. The southern Indian [...] Read more.
The paper examines how Hindu nationalist social service organizations, specifically the Deseeya Seva Bharathi (DSB), reconfigured the religious conception of ‘Seva’ to advance the project of constructing a Hindu social identity during the COVID-19 pandemic in the state of Kerala. The southern Indian state of Kerala has remained an exception in the story of the rise of the Hindu nationalist movement in contemporary India, which has repeatedly failed to make any considerable political inroads in the state. However, the disastrous economic consequences and livelihood challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic in the state, which was heavily dependent on foreign remittance and service industries, have opened up new spaces of engagement for Hindu nationalists. Drawing on the fieldwork conducted in central Kerala during the pandemic, this paper will elaborate on how the DSB used the crisis moment of the pandemic to reach out to economically and socially disadvantaged communities using the language of ‘Seva’ to build a Hindu social identity, which imbues the influence of majoritarian Hindu nationalist politics. The paper argues that the DSB’s articulation of ‘Seva’ as a distinct and superior form of social service that is ‘self-less’, ‘non-instrumental’ and ‘non-reciprocal’ is significant in understanding the growing appeal of Hindu nationalist social service in the contested political sphere of Kerala, which is marked by competing social provisions by the state as well as other secular and religious groups. The paper notes that the reconfiguration of ‘Seva’ as a continuous religious concept enables Hindu nationalists to attain greater acceptance and legitimacy that even the secular state welfare could not achieve, while also concealing the inherent instrumental nature of its social service towards the construction of a Hindu social identity in the region. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Hinduism and Hindu Nationalism: New Essays in Perspective)
26 pages, 12179 KiB  
Article
Lute, Sword, Snake, and Parasol—The Formation of the Standard Iconography of the Four Heavenly Kings in Chinese Buddhist Art
by Tianshu Zhu
Religions 2023, 14(6), 798; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060798 - 16 Jun 2023
Viewed by 2368
Abstract
The Four Heavenly Kings, Sida Tianwang 四大天王, are the guardians of the four quarters of the world in Buddhism. They are among the most frequently represented protective deities in Buddhist art across different traditions. In their standard iconographies developed in China popular during [...] Read more.
The Four Heavenly Kings, Sida Tianwang 四大天王, are the guardians of the four quarters of the world in Buddhism. They are among the most frequently represented protective deities in Buddhist art across different traditions. In their standard iconographies developed in China popular during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368–1911), they wear full armor, and each holds exclusive attributes—lute (pipa 琵琶), sword, snake, and parasol—from the east, south, west, to the north respectively. There is no direct textual base in the Chinese cannon for such iconographies. Neither can we find prototypes in India or central Asia. Indeed, how did this iconographic group develop in China? In the past, since the standard iconographies of the Four Heavenly Kings are clear, and identification is no problem, comprehensive in-depth study on this is lacking. Actually, those attributes came from a Tantric tradition related to Tibetan Buddhism filtered through the Xi Xia (1036–1227) and Yuan (1206–1368). What revealed in the development of this iconography is the complex relationship among the Tibetan, Tanguts, Mongols, and Chinese Buddhism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religious Art of Medieval China)
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21 pages, 6865 KiB  
Article
The Role of Ritual in Children’s Acquisition of Supernatural Beliefs
by Anna Mathiassen and Mark Nielsen
Religions 2023, 14(6), 797; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060797 - 15 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1096
Abstract
This study investigated how observing the ritualisation of objects can influence children’s encoding and defence of supernatural beliefs. Specifically, we investigated if ritualising objects leads children to believe those objects might be magical, buffering against favouring contrary evidence. Seventy-nine children, aged between 3 [...] Read more.
This study investigated how observing the ritualisation of objects can influence children’s encoding and defence of supernatural beliefs. Specifically, we investigated if ritualising objects leads children to believe those objects might be magical, buffering against favouring contrary evidence. Seventy-nine children, aged between 3 and 6 years, were presented with two identical objects (e.g., two colour-changing stress balls) and tasked with identifying which was magical after being informed that one had special properties (e.g., could make wishes come true). In a Ritual condition, an adult acted on one of the objects using causally irrelevant actions and on the other using functional actions. In an Instrumental condition, both objects were acted on with functional actions. The children were given a normative rule relating to the use of the objects and an opportunity to imitate the actions performed on them. A second adult then challenged their magical belief. Ritualistic actions increased the likelihood of children attributing magical powers to the associated object but did not affect resistance to change or adherence to normative rules. However, children who engaged in ritual actions protested more when the magical belief was challenged. Our findings suggest that rituals can play an important role in shaping children’s perception and defence of supernatural beliefs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Child Development)
18 pages, 3054 KiB  
Article
The Bronze Age Destruction of Jericho, Archaeology, and the Book of Joshua
by Titus Kennedy
Religions 2023, 14(6), 796; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060796 - 15 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 7327
Abstract
The ancient city of Jericho, located at the archaeological site of Tell es-Sultan west of the Jordan River and adjacent to the Ein es-Sultan spring on the edge of modern Jericho, has often been associated with the biblical city of Jericho and the [...] Read more.
The ancient city of Jericho, located at the archaeological site of Tell es-Sultan west of the Jordan River and adjacent to the Ein es-Sultan spring on the edge of modern Jericho, has often been associated with the biblical city of Jericho and the story found in the book of Joshua. The identification of Jericho with Tell es-Sultan is not disputed, and numerous excavation teams have affirmed Tell es-Sultan as Jericho. While excavations have also uncovered the fiery destruction of a walled city at Jericho, the date of the fall of Bronze Age Jericho and the association of this destruction with the narrative in the book of Joshua have been a point of disagreement among archaeologists for more than a century. The first excavations at Jericho (Tell es-Sultan) occurred in 1868 under the direction of Charles Warren, followed by soundings conducted by FJ Bliss in 1894, the expeditions of the years 1907–1909 and 1911 by Ernst Sellin and Carl Watzinger, the excavations of 1930–1936 directed by John Garstang, the 1952–1958 project of Kathleen Kenyon, brief excavations by Shimon Riklin in 1992, and the most recent excavations and restorations by the joint Italian–Palestinian team from 1997 to 2000 under Nicolo Marchetti and Lorenzo Nigro, followed by the 2009–2017 seasons directed by Jehad Yasin, Hamdan Taha, and Lorenzo Nigro. Although there is a significant deviation in views over the exact date of the destruction and abandonment, archaeological analyses of Jericho generally agree on the manner in which the city met its end, including a widespread fire, collapsed mudbrick walls, burning of the stored grain, and abandonment. However, assessing all of the archaeological data from Jericho IVc, both new and old, including pottery wares, Egyptian scarabs, a cuneiform tablet, stratigraphic analysis, and radiocarbon samples, allows a more definitive historical reconstruction concerning the chronology of the destruction of Jericho and its connections to the biblical narratives. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Exploring Science from a Biblical Perspective)
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17 pages, 288 KiB  
Article
Robert Boyle, the Bible, and Natural Philosophy
by Edward B. Davis
Religions 2023, 14(6), 795; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060795 - 15 Jun 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2291
Abstract
The great chemist Robert Boyle was also a serious student of the Bible and Christian theology, both of which profoundly influenced his natural philosophy. Christian beliefs and moral attitudes motivated him to extend human dominion over the creation by advancing scientific knowledge and [...] Read more.
The great chemist Robert Boyle was also a serious student of the Bible and Christian theology, both of which profoundly influenced his natural philosophy. Christian beliefs and moral attitudes motivated him to extend human dominion over the creation by advancing scientific knowledge and giving medicines from his laboratory to the poor. His outspoken advocacy of empiricism, over and against those who believed that unaided reason was sufficient to probe the depths of nature, was rooted in the conviction that the free, wise, and powerful Creator knows the creation far better than we creatures ever will. He vigorously promoted what he called “the mechanical philosophy”, partly because he found it far more theologically attractive than the pagan Greek conception taught in the universities, which conceived of “Nature” as a semi-divine being with a mind and powers of its own. It also underscored the great complexity of the world machine, requiring an intelligent Creator to have assembled it—thereby (he hoped) moving people not only to acknowledge God but to live piously and humbly. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Exploring Science from a Biblical Perspective)
9 pages, 247 KiB  
Article
Christian Ethics and Liberation from Below: A Way of Doing Theological Ethics in Brazil
by Alexandre Martins
Religions 2023, 14(6), 794; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060794 - 15 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1336
Abstract
This essay offers a Latin American perspective of theological ethics developed from the preferential option for the poor, marked by dialogue and encounter with the poor in their reality. Considering the theological diversity of the region, the author focuses on a theological ethics [...] Read more.
This essay offers a Latin American perspective of theological ethics developed from the preferential option for the poor, marked by dialogue and encounter with the poor in their reality. Considering the theological diversity of the region, the author focuses on a theological ethics developed in Brazil, especially the dialogical methods of Brazilian Catholic ethicists gathered by the Brazilian Society of Moral Theology. This essay presents an account on dialogue in theological ethics as a means of creation and liberation from the encounter with the poor in their reality and with other partners in a praxis of faith and struggle for justice. Then, the author stresses their reality as a theological locus and their voices as interlocutors for developing theological ethics, showing an experience of this method from below in theological bioethics and global health challenges. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Religions and Theologies)
21 pages, 1043 KiB  
Article
Secondary Traumatic Stress, Religious Coping, and Medical Mistrust among African American Clergy and Religious Leaders
by Laura Roggenbaum, David C. Wang, Laura Dryjanska, Erica Holmes, Blaire A. Lewis and Eric M. Brown
Religions 2023, 14(6), 793; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060793 - 15 Jun 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2051
Abstract
Previous research has investigated the prevalence and impact of secondary traumatic stress (STS) among those working as helping professionals. However, limited studies have provided clear and coherent information about STS among clergy, pastors, and other religious leaders, despite their status as helping professionals [...] Read more.
Previous research has investigated the prevalence and impact of secondary traumatic stress (STS) among those working as helping professionals. However, limited studies have provided clear and coherent information about STS among clergy, pastors, and other religious leaders, despite their status as helping professionals who are implicated in times of crisis. STS is particularly salient to African American religious leaders due to cultural factors that position African American churches as trusted institutions linking local communities of color with various social services. Results from a sample of African American religious leaders confirmed the prevalence of STS along with other mental health challenges. Moreover, STS was associated with negative interactions within the church. Finally, negative religious coping and medical mistrust significantly moderated the relationship between adverse childhood experiences and PTSD. These findings bear significant implications, emphasizing the need for greater collaboration and trust-building between mental health professionals and clergy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Religions and Health/Psychology/Social Sciences)
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21 pages, 439 KiB  
Article
The Siddha with a Thousand Faces: Non-Tantric and Tantric Elements in the Construction of the Buddhist Siddha in *Jñānākara’s Commentary to the Introduction to the [Path of] Mantra
by Aleksandra Wenta
Religions 2023, 14(6), 792; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060792 - 14 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1482
Abstract
This paper is a continuation of an earlier study published by the current author dedicated to the virtually unexplored tantric Buddhist scholar of the phyi dar period, *Jñānākara (11th century), through the textual analysis of his masterpiece, the Introduction to the [Path of] [...] Read more.
This paper is a continuation of an earlier study published by the current author dedicated to the virtually unexplored tantric Buddhist scholar of the phyi dar period, *Jñānākara (11th century), through the textual analysis of his masterpiece, the Introduction to the [Path of] Mantra (Skt. *Mantrāvatāra), now available only in the Tibetan translation as Gsang sngags ‘jug pa. In the previous paper, I have discussed the broader historical framework of the eleventh-century Indo-Tibetan world and *Jñānākara’s role in establishing, what I called, the “orthodoxy of tantric practice”. I have also provided a critical edition of the root text, the *Mantrāvatāra, accompanied by an English translation. While the previous study focused mainly on the debatable and highly controversial issue of tantric sexual initiations adopted by the monastics and hermeneutical tools employed by *Jñānākara to refute the literal interpretation of tantric scriptures, the current paper will concentrate on the exposition of tantric practice understood as the accumulation of causes and conditions (hetu-pratyaya) leading to the status of the siddha. This paper will trace tantric and non-tantric elements in *Jñānākara’s construction of the Buddhist siddha that integrated the kāya doctrine of the Yogācāra. My analysis will be based on *Jñānākara’s auto-commentary to his root text, the Commentary to the Introduction to the [Path of] Mantra (Skt. *Mantrāvatāravṛtti, Tib. Gsang sngags ‘jug pa ‘grel pa) which has not received any scholarly attention so far. Special attention will be paid to the intertextual dimension of his discourse that integrates the Mahāyāna models of the bodhisattva path. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tantric Studies for the Twenty-First Century)
21 pages, 377 KiB  
Article
The Relationship between Augustine’s Anthropological Duality and His Doctrine of the Two Cities
by Anthony Dupont, Bernard Bruning and Kristiaan Venken
Religions 2023, 14(6), 791; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060791 - 14 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1183
Abstract
Augustine of Hippo’s early works distinguish between the earthly human person, driven by worldly desires, and the reborn person, oriented towards heaven. Later, in his monumental De ciuitate Dei (On the City of God), Augustine expands on this distinction, proposing the [...] Read more.
Augustine of Hippo’s early works distinguish between the earthly human person, driven by worldly desires, and the reborn person, oriented towards heaven. Later, in his monumental De ciuitate Dei (On the City of God), Augustine expands on this distinction, proposing the existence of two cities: the earthly city, characterized by the love of self; and the city of God, characterized by the love of God. This tension between the two loves shapes human understanding of and place in the world. This article explores how the said tension reflects a duality in human nature, tracing the development of the relationship between Augustine’s doctrine of the two cities and his reflections on the dual human nature from his early works to De ciuitate Dei. The article studies whether the duality of human nature mirrors the dichotomy between the ciuitas Dei (city of God) and the ciuitas terrena (earthly city), examining how the conflict between good and evil within individuals and society serves as a model for the conflict between the two cities in Augustine’s doctrine, with a focus on how these concepts are expounded in his earlier writings and articulated in his De ciuitate Dei. It examines how the interaction between these loves manifests in human actions and desires, and shapes our understanding of the good and desirable. Ultimately, this article seeks to address the question of whether the tension between the love of God and the love of self, both in society and in human nature, is capable of harmonious resolution in Augustine’s mindset. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Augustine’s Concept of God and His Trinitarian Thought)
10 pages, 225 KiB  
Article
Jesus and the Cross-Centered Spirituality of the Reformation and Later Protestantism
by Calvin Lane
Religions 2023, 14(6), 790; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060790 - 14 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1420
Abstract
For all the important theological and practical diversity which emerged during the sixteenth century and later, a diversity whose legacies are still present in the forms of divided Christian bodies to this day, a uniquely medieval fascination with the cross endured. The reformation [...] Read more.
For all the important theological and practical diversity which emerged during the sixteenth century and later, a diversity whose legacies are still present in the forms of divided Christian bodies to this day, a uniquely medieval fascination with the cross endured. The reformation movements of the sixteenth century and later Protestants developed various ascetical programs and theological perspectives which were concerned with two well-worn medieval patterns: an appropriation of Jesus’s work of atonement on the cross and an internalizing of the crucified Jesus as an exemplar. Thus, if we question the kind of role Jesus played in the spirituality of the Reformation era and later Protestantism, the answer must be the cross. This cruci-centrism appears in theologies of salvation, in sermons, prayers, and hymnody, in perceptions of Christian devotional art, and in varied conceptions of the Eucharist. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Jesus and Spirituality: In Biblical and Historical Perspective)
21 pages, 270 KiB  
Article
Shakti in Village India: Priestesses, Sadhikas, Bhar Ladies, Ayes, Bhaktas, Witches, and Bonga Girls
by June McDaniel
Religions 2023, 14(6), 789; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060789 - 14 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1855
Abstract
In this paper, we shall examine some major religious roles for women in West Bengal, India, and the challenges they must face. Among the Santals, an Adivasi group, religious women must avoid being called witches, for women’s power is seen as dangerous and [...] Read more.
In this paper, we shall examine some major religious roles for women in West Bengal, India, and the challenges they must face. Among the Santals, an Adivasi group, religious women must avoid being called witches, for women’s power is seen as dangerous and religious social roles are traditionally forbidden to them. Some women have been called by deities to become trance mediums, colloquially known as ‘bhar ladies’, and this role is generally not accepted by family members. Girls have had to undergo exorcisms by male healers to get them to renounce the gods that have called them to this role, while married women must deal with husbands who do not want their wives going into public trances. Many such women have learned tantric practices to control the trance possession. In rural areas, the combination of ascetic practices and stories known as bratas (vratas) are taught to young girls by female leaders called ayes. However, in more urban areas, this role has been taken over by male brahmin priests. We also see women in the bhakti tradition, who run ashrams and lead worship and who must deal with male devotees who question a woman’s leadership abilities. All of these involve challenges, and many of these women have developed strategies to deal with the difficulties of being a religious influencer in their societies. Full article
16 pages, 309 KiB  
Article
Revisiting the Experiential World of Women’s Bhakti Poetry
by Karen Pechilis
Religions 2023, 14(6), 788; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060788 - 14 Jun 2023
Viewed by 2045
Abstract
My recent research on an early female bhakti saint brought to the fore differences between her perspective as represented in poetry attributed to her and her medieval biographer’s representation of her concerns. Through that study, the widespread academic use in recent scholarship of [...] Read more.
My recent research on an early female bhakti saint brought to the fore differences between her perspective as represented in poetry attributed to her and her medieval biographer’s representation of her concerns. Through that study, the widespread academic use in recent scholarship of traditional biographies to interpret female bhakti saints became especially visible and problematic to me. In this experimental essay, I consider what patterns we might find if we prioritize the poetry attributed to influential female bhakti saints, navigating the significant issues of subjectivity, voice, and utterance to discern the contours of their devotional subjectivity as an authoritative nexus for conceptualizing and expressing individual and group devotion. In contrast to scholarly assurances that female bhakti saints are internally steadfast or that they are mainly troubled by external situations, I argue that their devotional subjectivity voices their realization that diverse embodied experiences of contestation are generative for a shared sense of devotion. Full article
23 pages, 2080 KiB  
Article
Gender, Education and Citizenship as Ideological Weapons of an ‘Army of Holy Women’ in Bengal: The Matua Matri Sena
by Sukanya Sarbadhikary and Dishani Roy
Religions 2023, 14(6), 787; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060787 - 14 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2515
Abstract
This paper seeks to analyze the recent phenomenon of the development of a Matri Sena (literally, an ‘Army of Holy Women’) among the Matua sect of West Bengal, India. Historically known to have suffered caste-based untouchability and forced migration due to communal conflict, [...] Read more.
This paper seeks to analyze the recent phenomenon of the development of a Matri Sena (literally, an ‘Army of Holy Women’) among the Matua sect of West Bengal, India. Historically known to have suffered caste-based untouchability and forced migration due to communal conflict, the Matua community’s current political motivations surround the issue of ‘refugeehood’ and Indian citizenship. Given this background, the emergence of the Matri Sena as a complex identity among a religion–caste–gender–nation nexus is oriented towards bipartite objectives: one, to actualize the gender-egalitarian ethos that informs Matua religious foundations, and two, to claim legal citizenship status for its community members precisely through a new gendered ideology. We argue that the women gurus of the Matri Sena are able to realize their religious/political aims by fashioning themselves as mothers of an ideal family, community, and by extension, the nation. In deploying their specific gendered ideological constructions, they enact their new roles as influencers in both private and public Matua lives. In such renderings, the woman guru’s mother-figure emerges as a political subject through crucial engagements with Matua religiosity on one hand, and dominant Hindu nationalist discourses on the other. In this article, we critically analyze ways in which the Matri Sena constructs a new maternal notion of religio-political power, and how such power furthers both collective Matua aspirations and contemporary national imaginations. Full article
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22 pages, 14356 KiB  
Article
Urban Devis: Fashioning Lay Women’s Holiness in Krishna Bhakti Networks
by Claire Robison
Religions 2023, 14(6), 786; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060786 - 14 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1205
Abstract
Although many Hindu communities today foreground women as religious authorities, some lineages officially recognize only men as gurus and renouncers. If official models of religious authority are gendered masculine, what space do women have to embody holiness? This article investigates this question with [...] Read more.
Although many Hindu communities today foreground women as religious authorities, some lineages officially recognize only men as gurus and renouncers. If official models of religious authority are gendered masculine, what space do women have to embody holiness? This article investigates this question with reference to women in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a transnational religious organization that has developed prominent communities in India and abroad. Amidst an ongoing disagreement about whether women can be gurus in the organization, this article considers how devotee women are cultivating spaces of religious authority in their temple communities and online media forums through embodying Krishna bhakti as a form of vernacular holiness. This includes the development of personal websites and the use of YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok to produce media content that ranges from overtly devout recordings of temple lectures to subtle signals towards Krishna bhakti in the aesthetic style of social media influencers. Case studies discuss women affiliated with ISKCON communities in India and the US. Full article
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