Special Issue "Phenomenology, Spirituality, and Religion"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Humanities/Philosophies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 May 2021).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Neal DeRoo
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Canada Research Chair in Phenomenology and Philosophy of Religion, The King’s University, Edmonton, AB T6B 2H3, Canada
Interests: phenomenology; philosophy of religion; Christian philosophy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

It is common now for people to describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” Such a description is meant to indicate a person’s general belief in, or openness to, some immaterial reality that is not accompanied by a commitment to any particular religious tradition (with its dogmas, rituals, practices, etc.). This seems to confirm the common sense understanding of spirituality (as pertaining to immaterial realities) and a contemporary understanding of religion (as sociohistorically situated material phenomena). Given these understandings, we see why a distinction between spirituality and religion is necessary, such that one can accommodate the former without acceding to the latter.

Phenomenology, on the other hand, has spent over a century now complicating the simple distinctions between subject and object, constituting and constituted, immateriality and materiality. Yet, for all the recent interest in the “theological turn” in phenomenology, very little has been said phenomenologically about the relationship between spirituality and religion. This is surprising because spirit [Geist] plays an important role in Husserl’s later work and is taken up explicitly by Henry, most notably in Barbarism. Yet, this phenomenological account of spirit is relatively underthematized in its own right and is almost entirely ignored in its relation to religion.

This Special Issue, then, hopes to address this lacuna by examining the resources phenomenology can offer to our understandings of spirituality, religion, and the relationship between them. This can include phenomenological descriptions and analyses of “spiritual” experiences, but also more philosophical investigations of the nature of spirituality itself, the primordial role it seems to play in human experience, and therefore, the complication it provides in terms of a simple distinction between immaterial spirituality and material religion. Such a clarification of spirituality in its relationship to religion can help us better articulate both the “sacramental” or “liturgical” understanding of materiality put forth by Marion, Falque, Kearney, and Lacoste (to name a few) and the ‘event-al’ account of religion put forth by Caputo, Vattimo, and others. To that end, this Special Issue seeks a refined understanding, not just of religion, but of the spiritual nature of materiality itself.

The deadline for submitting proposals is December 2020. Proposals should be submitted via the special issue website. The deadline for final manuscript submissions is 31 May 2021.

Dr. Neal DeRoo
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • phenomenology
  • religion
  • spirituality
  • sacramental
  • liturgical
  • event
  • materiality
  • material religion
  • theological turn

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Phenomenology, Spirituality and Religion: Defining a Problem
Religions 2021, 12(12), 1114; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12121114 - 20 Dec 2021
Viewed by 327
Abstract
The claim that phenomenology has something to contribute to the study of religion is not new [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phenomenology, Spirituality, and Religion)

Research

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Article
Ritual and Thought: Spirituality and Method in Philosophy of Religion
Religions 2021, 12(12), 1045; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12121045 - 25 Nov 2021
Viewed by 591
Abstract
This paper outlines a strain of French Spiritualism, a philosophical tradition extending from Maine de Biran, Félix Ravaisson, and Jules Lachelier to their reception in the work of Maurice Blondel and his protégé Henry Duméry. In receiving and transforming this tradition, Blondel and [...] Read more.
This paper outlines a strain of French Spiritualism, a philosophical tradition extending from Maine de Biran, Félix Ravaisson, and Jules Lachelier to their reception in the work of Maurice Blondel and his protégé Henry Duméry. In receiving and transforming this tradition, Blondel and Duméry have helped to provide a distinct philosophical paradigm in philosophy of religion, capable of providing insight into the spiritual nature of the human being, both in how spirituality relates to the advanced stages of religious culture in addition to its primitive presence in spontaneous action. As a tradition consecrated to the study of human consciousness, and the operations of the mind [l’esprit], the French spiritualist tradition provides a rich conceptual matrix for analyzing the nature of human thinking and its relationship to action. In such an analysis of human thought, Maurice Blondel set up a moral psychology and metaphysical anthropology, highlighting how the consciousness of the human being is linked to the objective order of existence, both in its material form and in the intelligible realities behind the nature of existence. This philosophical matrix helps to show how religious practices, through embodied engagement with the material world, are effective at generating a consciousness of metaphysical or transcendent realities. As such, this philosophical paradigm provides the means for constructing a theory of ritual, where ritual acts with symbols and signs may be rendered intelligible as the sensible means for the cognitive expression of spiritual activity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phenomenology, Spirituality, and Religion)
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Article
The Spiritual Features of the Experience of qi in Chinese Martial Arts
Religions 2021, 12(10), 836; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100836 - 08 Oct 2021
Viewed by 735
Abstract
I argue in this article, grounding on a phenomenological analysis of the experience of qi in Chinese martial arts, that the experience of qi in this framework can share the features of a secular spiritual experience, in other words of a spiritual experience [...] Read more.
I argue in this article, grounding on a phenomenological analysis of the experience of qi in Chinese martial arts, that the experience of qi in this framework can share the features of a secular spiritual experience, in other words of a spiritual experience that is not religious, at least not necessarily. I put in evidence five features that can characterize the experience of qi in Chinese martial arts and that arguably pertain to spirituality: (1) the importance of individual experience; (2) self-transcendence and the quest for authenticity; (3) the connection with a transcendent dimension; (4) the importance of corporeity and at the same time the apprehension of a dimension which cannot be reduced to corporeity; (5) the use of imagination in order to grasp a transcendent dimension that presupposes the use of metaphors. Consequently, the experience of qi in Chinese martial arts suggests the possibility of a form of spirituality that is not necessarily bound to religion and that at the same time is not a mere rejection of traditional religions. At the same time, I argue that the experience of qi in Chinese martial and energetic arts reveals radical possibilities of human experience at the core of which are fundamental transcendental structures of human experience, i.e., the experience of our body and the experience of the world through our body. This suggests the idea that phenomenology has an important potential for the investigation of spirituality and opens towards a research field that can be deeper explored. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phenomenology, Spirituality, and Religion)
Article
Of Spirit and Europe: What Derrida Missed
Religions 2021, 12(10), 820; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100820 - 30 Sep 2021
Viewed by 459
Abstract
This article deals with Jacques Derrida’s critique of the phenomenological concepts of spirituality and spirit, particularly in the context of his 1987 book Of Spirit. As the article shows, Derrida’s interpretation of these concepts was based on a seemingly minor, yet extremely [...] Read more.
This article deals with Jacques Derrida’s critique of the phenomenological concepts of spirituality and spirit, particularly in the context of his 1987 book Of Spirit. As the article shows, Derrida’s interpretation of these concepts was based on a seemingly minor, yet extremely important misreading of Edmund Husserl’s key passages on the relationship between spirituality and Europe. Unlike Derrida claims, Husserl did not equate Europe with the universal teleology of humankind. Instead, what the concept of spirituality opened up was a new way of understanding transcendental modes of experience as embedded in a particular historical situation of a particular community. Philosophy, understood as a “spiritual” phenomenon, denoted for Husserl a fundamentally intersubjective and intergenerational phenomenon that is by no means separate from empirical history. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phenomenology, Spirituality, and Religion)
Article
The Selbständigkeit of the Essence: Michel Henry and the Meaning of Philosophical Knowledge
Religions 2021, 12(10), 813; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100813 - 27 Sep 2021
Viewed by 404
Abstract
This paper deals with a research hypothesis tying the legacy of German idealism to the first foundation of Michel Henry’s “phenomenology of life”. Based on a series of archive documents, the paper reconstitutes the hermeneutical horizon in contrast with which the young Henry [...] Read more.
This paper deals with a research hypothesis tying the legacy of German idealism to the first foundation of Michel Henry’s “phenomenology of life”. Based on a series of archive documents, the paper reconstitutes the hermeneutical horizon in contrast with which the young Henry (1946–1963) defined his conception of phenomenology, philosophy, and religion, i.e., the French existential–Hegelian debate (Wahl, Kojève). The reconstitution of this dialogue between the young Henry and the French Hegelianism of the 20th century will provide the theoretical framework for the analysis of the “religious attitude” in Henry’s philosophy and in his attempt to rethink the transcendental connection between phenomenality and (philosophical) discourse. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phenomenology, Spirituality, and Religion)
Article
Do Radical Theologians Pray?: A Spirituality of the Event
Religions 2021, 12(9), 679; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12090679 - 26 Aug 2021
Viewed by 1701
Abstract
Radical theology is not only an academic inquiry but also a radical spirituality. This point is confirmed in the phenomenology of radical prayer found in Derrida’s “Circumfession”. Derrida’s prayer takes place in a theopoetic space opened by a theopoetic epoche, which suspends [...] Read more.
Radical theology is not only an academic inquiry but also a radical spirituality. This point is confirmed in the phenomenology of radical prayer found in Derrida’s “Circumfession”. Derrida’s prayer takes place in a theopoetic space opened by a theopoetic epoche, which suspends both the supernatural signified (supernaturalism, praying to a Supreme Being) and the transcendental signified (rationalism, reducing prayer to a subjective fantasy). Radical prayer is compared to Augustine’s prayer in the Confessions, taken here as a paradigm of classical prayer. The difference is not that Augustine is really praying and Derrida’s prayer is a literary conceit, but that Augustine’s prayer takes place within a determined set of “beliefs”, of material symbols in which to incarnate his prayer, of which Derrida is deprived, from which he is circum-cut. But this very deprivation or de-materialization renders Derrida’s prayer an even more radical one, belonging to a more spectral “faith”, to the spirituality of a radical theology, to a theology of the event, by which traditional spirituality is both nourished and inwardly disturbed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phenomenology, Spirituality, and Religion)
Article
Working in Time: From Barbarism to Repetition
Religions 2021, 12(8), 565; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080565 - 22 Jul 2021
Viewed by 912
Abstract
The task of ethicists, philosophers, and theologians to restore the dignity of human labor and vocation in a (post)industrial, techno-driven society is motivated by an often unacknowledged concern to restore the underlying spirituality of the human experience of work. Due to its ability [...] Read more.
The task of ethicists, philosophers, and theologians to restore the dignity of human labor and vocation in a (post)industrial, techno-driven society is motivated by an often unacknowledged concern to restore the underlying spirituality of the human experience of work. Due to its ability to interrogate the range of givenness in human experience, phenomenology is a method particularly suited to explore this spiritual dimension. In this essay, I offer a phenomenological analysis that attends to the way our experience of time either suppresses or discloses the underlying spirituality of work. (Post)industrial societies reduce time to “clock time”, or an objective unit of measurement of production. Since increased production per unit of time is necessary for profit, we live and work in a society that is continually racing against the clock, and we find ourselves existentially pitted against it. I diagnose this reductionistic perspective of time, and its ensuing consequences, as a form of what Michel Henry calls “barbarism”. Setting aside the assumption of time as exclusively “clock time”, I then attend phenomenologically to other ways in which time gives itself to consciousness, namely, in cuisine, music, and craftsmanship. Finally, while Henry is helpful in analyzing the spiritual destitution of such an approach to time (and, consequently, to work), ultimately I turn to Kierkegaard’s account of temporality, specifically as articulated in the philosophical category of repetition, to disclose time as constitutive of our work and thus to demonstrate the spiritual significance of human vocation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phenomenology, Spirituality, and Religion)
Article
Beyond the Phenomenology of the Inconspicuous
Religions 2021, 12(8), 558; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080558 - 21 Jul 2021
Viewed by 994
Abstract
How does spirit appear? In fact, it does not appear, and for this reason, we could refer to it, following Heidegger, as “inconspicuous” (unscheinbar). The Heideggerian path investigates this inconspicuous starting from the Husserlian method, and yet, this is not the [...] Read more.
How does spirit appear? In fact, it does not appear, and for this reason, we could refer to it, following Heidegger, as “inconspicuous” (unscheinbar). The Heideggerian path investigates this inconspicuous starting from the Husserlian method, and yet, this is not the only Phenomenology of the “Inconspicuous” Spirit: Hegel had already thematized it in 1807. It is thus possible to identify at least two Phenomenologies of the “Inconspicuous” spirit. These two phenomenologies, however, do not simply put forth distinct phenomenological methods, nor do they merely propose differing modes of spirit’s manifestation. In each of these phenomenologies, rather, what we call “spirit” manifests different traits: in one instance, it appears as absolute knowing, and, in the other, it manifests “from itself” as “phenomenon”. Yet how, exactly, does spirit manifest “starting from itself as phenomenon”? Certainly not in the mode of entities, but rather in the modality that historical phenomenology, which also includes Edmund Husserl’s work, has grasped. A question remains, however: is the inconspicuous coextensive with “spirit”? Certainly, spirit is inconspicuous, but it is not only spirit that is such. A certain phenomenological practice understood this well, a practice that several French authors have pushed. Jean-Luc Marion, Michel Henry, and Jean-Louis Chrétien have all contributed, in a certain way, to the phenomenology of the inconspicuous. However, do these authors carry out a phenomenology of inconspicuous spirit? Perhaps what French phenomenology gives us today, after an itinerary that has discovered several senses of the inconspicuous, is precisely the return to spirit that is missing in, and was missed by, this tradition. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phenomenology, Spirituality, and Religion)
Article
Human Spirituality: Jean-Louis Chrétien and the Vital Side of Speech
Religions 2021, 12(7), 511; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12070511 - 08 Jul 2021
Viewed by 807
Abstract
Jean-Louis Chrétien founded his phenomenological enquiry on an analysis of the word as defined by the call and response link. His analysis provides an in-depth approach to spiritual experience as a basis for authentic religious experience. The description of the theoretical sites in [...] Read more.
Jean-Louis Chrétien founded his phenomenological enquiry on an analysis of the word as defined by the call and response link. His analysis provides an in-depth approach to spiritual experience as a basis for authentic religious experience. The description of the theoretical sites in which he confronts the theme of the spirit (vital breath, Holy Spirit, inspiration of Scripture, and spiritual life and prayer) determines some fixed points that allow us to define spiritual experience as intersubjective and fleshly, and therefore, not reducible to solipsism and intimism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phenomenology, Spirituality, and Religion)
Article
Nature, Spirit, and Spirituality in Husserl’s Phenomenology
Religions 2021, 12(7), 481; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12070481 - 28 Jun 2021
Viewed by 584
Abstract
This article deals with the relationship between Spirit (Geist) and Nature (Natur) in Husserl’s phenomenology and the potentially religious motifs involved in its treatment. I begin by outlining two different approaches that can be found in Husserl’s work regarding [...] Read more.
This article deals with the relationship between Spirit (Geist) and Nature (Natur) in Husserl’s phenomenology and the potentially religious motifs involved in its treatment. I begin by outlining two different approaches that can be found in Husserl’s work regarding the dyad Nature-Spirit: firstly, a schematic opposition between the two, and secondly, the recognition of their fundamental intertwinement. I claim that, even in this second approach, there remains a sense of subordination of Nature to Spirit that is due to the transcendental character of Husserl’s phenomenology. I analyze this primacy in the context of Husserl’s monadological theory, bringing forward certain religious elements of his account in order to connect this notion of spirit to a more contemporary idea of spirituality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phenomenology, Spirituality, and Religion)
Article
Faith, Religion, and Spirituality: A Phenomenological and Hermeneutic Contribution to Parsing the Distinctions
Religions 2021, 12(7), 476; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12070476 - 26 Jun 2021
Viewed by 685
Abstract
Religion and spirituality are contested terms in the fields of Religious Studies, Theology, Sociology or Anthropology of Religion, and other areas, and the notion of faith has often been abandoned altogether. The present article attempts to make a distinctly philosophical contribution to this [...] Read more.
Religion and spirituality are contested terms in the fields of Religious Studies, Theology, Sociology or Anthropology of Religion, and other areas, and the notion of faith has often been abandoned altogether. The present article attempts to make a distinctly philosophical contribution to this debate by employing phenomenological parameters, as they are articulated in the work of Martin Heidegger, for proposing distinctions between faith, religion, and spirituality. It then goes on to “fill” these structural distinctions in more detail with hermeneutic content by drawing on Paul Ricœur’s work on faith and religion, as well as Johann Michel’s analysis of Ricœur’s account of the self as a “spirituality”. The article thus employs Heidegger’s phenomenological categories and Ricœur’s hermeneutic project in order to think through the possibility of making phenomenological distinctions between personal confession of faith, religious adhesion to a tradition via myth and ritual, and a broader spirituality as a fundamental dimension of the human being. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phenomenology, Spirituality, and Religion)
Article
Religious, but Not Spiritual: A Constructive Proposal
Religions 2021, 12(6), 433; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12060433 - 10 Jun 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 919
Abstract
Often the debates in philosophy of religion are quite disconnected from the empirical data gathered in the sociology of religion. This is especially the case regarding the recent increase in prominence of those identifying as “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR) within an American [...] Read more.
Often the debates in philosophy of religion are quite disconnected from the empirical data gathered in the sociology of religion. This is especially the case regarding the recent increase in prominence of those identifying as “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR) within an American context. In the attempt to bring these two fields into productive conversation, this essay offers a constructive account of the SBNR in terms of what they reject (i.e., their status as “not religious”) and also what they affirm (i.e., their identity as “spiritual”). In brief, the suggestion is that the SBNR do not reject theism or even common “religious” practices, but instead reject a particular mode of “religion” that is grounded in an authoritative and insular social presence. Alternatively, the SBNR at least seem to affirm a notion of “spirituality” that is broadly consistent with the idea found in historical Christian traditions. After surveying the empirical data and offering a new phenomenological analysis of it, the essay concludes with a suggestion that we need a new category—“religious, but not spiritual” (RBNS)—in order best to make sense of how the SBNR signify in relation to specific hermeneutic contexts and sociopolitical frameworks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phenomenology, Spirituality, and Religion)
Article
Being True
Religions 2021, 12(4), 262; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12040262 - 09 Apr 2021
Viewed by 578
Abstract
Turning to Karl Jaspers’s 1937 lectures, later published as Philosophy of Existence, this paper examines what might be meant by the colloquial expression “spiritual but not religious”. In doing so, it is argued that while Jaspers’s critique of organized religion mostly hits [...] Read more.
Turning to Karl Jaspers’s 1937 lectures, later published as Philosophy of Existence, this paper examines what might be meant by the colloquial expression “spiritual but not religious”. In doing so, it is argued that while Jaspers’s critique of organized religion mostly hits the mark, critiques of religion—as represented here by Jaspers’s Existenzphilosophie—fail to undermine a form of genuine spirituality grounded in a faith in the revealed Christ. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Phenomenology, Spirituality, and Religion)
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