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If you feel bombarded by emails, phone calls, text messages and the daily stress that comes with them, there could be a solution for you. Some people have found relief in perfect silence. Host Michel Martin learns more about the popularity of silent retreats.

Certain highly emotional experiences have the potential to produce long-lasting and meaningful changes in personality. Two such experiences are spiritual transformations and experiences of profound beauty. However, little is known about the cognitive appraisals or narrative elements involved in such experiences, how they are similar, and how they differ. In a study of emotion-related narratives, these experiences were found to share many features but also differ in their valence. Experiences of profound beauty are almost always positive, but spiritual transformations are both positive and negative. Moreover, spiritual transformations seem to produce long-lasting change, but experiences of profound beauty, although evocative, do not seem to produce long-lasting change. An emotion approach helps to elucidate two understudied but important emotional experiences.
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This essay seeks to explore contemplation as it features in Christian theology and philosophy, both ancient and modern. Contemplation, in ancient philosophy, is transformed in Christian theology; nonetheless, it has the structure of what Jean Wahl calls ‘transascendance’, a rising to the heights. Although contemplation remains as a theme in modern Christian theology, it drops out in modern philosophy: that is, post-Renaissance philosophy. And yet it returns, both in analytic and continental philosophy, in the twentieth century. It returns, however, in the mode of ‘transdescendance’: by way of conditions of possibility, and fundamental orientations.

Mystical texts and the visual arts have contributed immeasurably to shaping individual and collective conceptions of the spiritual in modern and postmodern culture. By integrating rigorous textual analysis with direct experiential practices, we will bring a multifaceted approach to bear on the relationship between aesthetic, intellectual and mystical creativity—that is, between the often conflicting domains of spiritual experience, intellectual analysis, and beauty—in order to gain insight into the ways in which these distinctive yet overlapping modalities of knowledge have integrally shaped developments in high culture, sacred practice and visual representation. Drawing on the combined methodological perspectives of Art History and Religious Studies, we will examine the ways in which the contemplative and experiential practices of museum viewing, ritual performances, trans-cultural encounter and focused reading and writing activities can all serve as powerful acts of human self-creation.

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