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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Postgraduate Course: New Spiritualities (REST11023)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores the field known in Europe and North America as 'new age' or 'holistic' spirituality. It aims to describe, contextualize and explain key features of these new spiritualities with reference to their content and structure and to their distribution in the population at large. By the end of the course students should be able to describe the recent history and ethnography of the 'new spiritualities', outline their key ideas and beliefs, and form a critical assessment of their impact, both on public understanding and within the academic study of religion.
Course description Academic Description:

This course investigates the modern field of popular beliefs and practices grouped here under the rubric of 'new spiritualities'. We examine case studies of practices, beliefs and biographies, drawing on explanatory insights from social and cultural theorists. The course aims to describe, contextualize and explain key features of the new spiritualities with reference to their content and structure and to their distribution and impact in society at large.

Syllabus/Outline Content:

We begin with the problem of demarcating a fluid field of beliefs and practices that crosses traditional boundaries of 'religious' and 'secular'. We examine definitions and models of 'new spiritualities' and discuss the implications of their inclusion in the comparative study of religion/s. We explore the role of authorities and traditions in the development of a culture of seekership and we consider evidence for an emerging cosmology to support and legitimate these practices. Finally we trace the permeation of new spiritualities into everyday life settings. An important whole course learning outcome is the capacity to make an informed and mature judgement on the salience of new spiritualities, both in the study of 'religion/s', and as a social and cultural phenomenon in their own right.

Student Learning Experience:

The course requires MSc students to attend joint lectures with Honours undergraduate students, facilitating rich interactions between advanced undergraduate and early postgraduate sensibilities. This interaction is encouraged in the classroom and nurtures reflexive insight on the part of MSc students. The students then have their own, separate tutorial each week. Individual consultation with the course manager in relation to the digital case study and extended essay consolidates a holistic and flexible learning experience that can incorporate particular substantive interests of MSc students (eg. in particular examples of new spiritualities).
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
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. Define 'new spiritualities' and describe their main features in contemporary society
  2. Outline and analyse new spirituality beliefs, concepts and practices, both typically and in selected case studies
  3. Practice an informed and critical multi-causal analysis, based in selected social, cultural and political theories, of new spiritualities
  4. Assess in the round the impact of new spiritualities in contemporary societies
  5. Develop transferable skills in presentation, discussion and analysis both individually and in a group context
Reading List
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.
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
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
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 This course contributes to the development of the following graduate abilities:
- Collect and synthesise evidence from a wide range of primary and secondary sources applicable to the study of new spiritualities within a wider comparative study of religion/s in society;
- Read and interpret a range of different sources within their social and/or theoretical contexts, and be able to differentiate primary from secondary sources.
- Evaluate and critique the work of scholars who have studied new spiritualities (secondary sources)
- Formulate questions emerging from the study of religion/s and structure an argument to express resolutions to these questions critically and analytically.
- Express clearly ideas and arguments: orally, in writing, in electronic media such as email communications;
- Develop oral presentation and participation skills during tutorial presentation and group discussion;
- Organise their own learning, manage workload and work to a timetable;
- Effectively plan, and possess the confidence to undertake and to present scholarly work that demonstrates an understanding of aims, methods and theoretical considerations relevant to Religious Studies; and
- Work independently on the creation of essays using the standards current in the academic field of Religious Studies.
KeywordsSpiritualities,Holistic,New Age,Religion,Society,Culture
Course organiserDr Steven Sutcliffe
Tel: (0131 6)50 8947
Course secretaryMiss Rachel Dutton
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227
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