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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Undergraduate Course: New Spiritualities: from New Age to Holistic (DIVI10039)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course investigates the content and structure of selected new spiritualities in Europe and North America, with an emphasis on new age and holistic examples. It combines empirical study with insights from a range of social theorists. The course identifies a fluid field of 'spiritual' beliefs and practices which it locates within the modern history of religion.
Course description Academic Description:
This course investigates the modern field of popular beliefs and practices known as 'new spiritualities'. It aims to describe, contextualize and explain key features of this field with reference to their content and structure, and to its distribution in the population at large. The course focuses on new age and holistic expressions. It has three overall goals: to explore the theoretical value of studying new spiritualities, to explain their international/transcultural appeal for practitioners, and to critically assess their social, public and political significance in modern societies.

Syllabus/Outline Content:
We begin with the problem of demarcating a hyper-fluid field of beliefs and practices that crosses traditional boundaries of 'religious' and 'secular'. We examine definitions of 'spirituality', 'holistic' and 'new age' and discuss the grounds of their inclusion within the comparative study of religion/s. We explore the role of authorities and traditions in the development of a culture of seekership spread via networks, small groups and other 'glocal' institutions. We consider evidence for an emerging new spiritual cosmology, and using both qualitative and quantitative data we trace the permeation of new spiritual beliefs and practices into everyday life settings, including health, wellbeing and psychology. Familiarity with primary sources will be emphasized, drawing on selections of writings by illustrative 'new spirituality' authors, and on material gathered by students themselves for their field report.

Student Learning Experience Information:
Lectures are based around presentations from the lecturer and include some audio-visual content. Background readings are set for each week's topics. Tutorials are student-led discussions of set readings based on a full bibliography built into the syllabus.

Students will demonstrate their completion of the intended learning outcomes through a combination of lecture and tutorial activities, by the preparation of an essay, and by completion of an exam. The essay will require attention to points and themes crossing two or more weeks, and the exam will require one question to be answered from three sections covering the entire course, with the aim to achieve a whole course coverage in assessment.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking New Spiritualities: from New Age to Holistic (REST10052)
Other requirements Students who have previously taken the following course MUST NOT enroll: New Spiritualities: from New Age to Holistic (REST10052)
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Identify and describe the main features of new spiritualities in contemporary society.
  2. Outline and analyse, under various names such as 'new age' and 'holistic', typical beliefs, concepts and practices involved.
  3. Practice simple multi-causal analysis (social, cultural, political) of selected new spiritualities.
  4. Assess in the round the social, cultural and political impact of new spiritualities.
Reading List
Barcan, R. 2011, Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Bodies, Therapies, Senses, Oxford: Berg.

Bednarowski, M. 1989, New Religions and the Theological Imagination in America, Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.

Besecke, K. 2014. You can't put god in a box. Oxford University Press.

Beyer, P. 2006, 'New Religions, non-institutionalised religiosity and the control of a contested category', chap. 6 in Religions in Global Society, London: Routledge.

Trzebiatowska, M. and S. Bruce 2012. Why are Women more Religious than Men? Oxford University Press.

Carrette, J. and R. King 2005, Selling Spirituality: the Silent Takeover of Religion.

Coward, R. 1989, The Whole Truth: the myth of alternative health, London: Faber.

Frisk, L. and P. Åkerbäck 2015. New Religiosity in Contemporary Sweden. Sheffield: Equinox.

Goldman, M. S. 2012. The American Soul Rush: Esalen and the Rise of Spiritual Privilege. New York: New York University Press.

Hammer, O. 2006, 'New Age Movement', pp.855-861 in W. Hanegraaff (ed), Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, Leiden: Brill.

Heelas, P. 2008, Spiritualities of Life: New Age Romanticism and Consumptive Capitalism, Oxford: Blackwell.

Heelas, P. and L. Woodhead 2005, The Spiritual Revolution: why religion is giving way to spirituality, Oxford: Blackwell.

Kemp, D. and Lewis, J. (eds) 2007, Handbook of New Age, Leiden: Brill.

Knoblauch, H. 2010, 'Popular Spirituality', Anthropological Journal of European Cultures Volume 19(1): 24-39.

Kripal, J. 2007. Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion. Chicago Uni Press.

Lau, K. 2000, New Age Capitalism: Making Money East of Eden, University of Pennsylvania Press.

Lynch, G. 2007. The New Spirituality: An Introduction to Progressive Belief in the Twenty-First Century. I. B. Taurus.

Macpherson, J. 2008, Women and Reiki: Energetic/Holistic Healing in Practice, Equinox.

McGuire, M. 1988, Ritual Healing in Suburban America, London, etc: Rutgers University Press.

Partridge, C. 2004, The Re-Enchantment of the West, Volume I. London: T and T Clark.

Possamai, A. 2006, In Search of New Age Spiritualities, Aldershot: Ashgate.

Rose, S. 1998: 'An examination of the New Age Movement: who is involved and what constitutes its spirituality', Journal of Contemporary Religion 13/1:5-22.

Rothstein, M. (ed) 2001, New Age Religion and Globalization, Aarhus University Press.

Sutcliffe, S. 2003, Children of the New Age: A History of Spiritual Practices.

Sutcliffe, S. and M. Bowman (eds), Beyond New Age: Exploring Alternative Spirituality, Edinburgh University Press.

Sutcliffe, S. and I. S. Gilhus (eds) 2013, New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion. Durham: Acumen.

Voas, D. and Bruce, S. 2007, 'The Spiritual Revolution: another false dawn for the Sacred', chap. 2 in K. Flanagan and P. Jupp (eds), A Sociology of Spirituality, Aldershot: Ashgate.

Wood, M. 2007, Possession, Power and the New Age: Ambiguities of Authority in Neoliberal Societies, Aldershot: Ashgate.

Woodhead, L. 2007, 'Why so many women in holistic spirituality? A puzzle revisited', chap. 6 in K. Flanagan and P. Jupp (eds), A Sociology of Spirituality, Aldershot: Ashgate.

Woodhead, L. 2013, 'New Forms of Public Religion: Spirituality in Global Civil Society', pp. 29-52 in W. Hofstee and A. van der Kooij (eds), Religion beyond its Private Role in Modern Society, Leiden: Brill.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Independence of mind and initiative
- Analytical ability and the capacity to formulate questions and solve problems
- Writing skills, including clear expression and citing relevant evidence
- Presentation skills, both oral and written, supported by appropriate technologies
KeywordsSpiritualities,New Age,Holistic,Religion,Society,Culture,Modernity
Course organiserDr Steven Sutcliffe
Tel: (0131 6)50 8947
Course secretaryMiss Rachel Dutton
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227
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