​Encountering the Divine: Developing a Framework of Religious Intelligence
TWCF Number
Project Duration
June 1 / 2021
- July 11 / 2022
Core Funding Area
Big Questions
North America
Amount Awarded

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Anna I. Corwin
Institution Saint Mary’s College of California

In this project, Anna I. Corwin of St. Mary’s College of California will expand on a decade of research she has conducted with nuns who describe accounts of gaining knowledge directly from God. These expert experiencers, who have cultivated a deep and enduring connection with the divine, are recognized in their community for the knowledge and insights they pass on to those who do not experience God directly.

Across cultural communities, humans report learning from and being changed through their interactions with the divine. Yet there is little known about the ways of knowing, perspectives, and capacities that arise through interaction with the divine, and how this knowledge is communicated to others. Through ethnographic research conducted over the course of three years, this Diverse Intelligences project will provide a critical foundation for understanding what religious intelligences are and how they interactively arise. Taking Christianity as its focus, it will achieve three goals:

  1. to establish what knowledge, associated outcomes, and community impacts are associated with religious intelligences;
  2. to discern the communicative conditions through which religious intelligences arise and are shared in each site and across sites in four distinct cultural communities; and
  3. to establish a research framework for the investigation of religious intelligences that can be applied to future research in other religious contexts.

The study will have two parts: (1) What: The Knowledge: Drawing on ethnographic surveys and interviews across four sites, the study will identify what types of knowledge and intelligences are gained directly through interaction with the divine and/or through interactions between individuals and expert experiences. (2) How: The Process: Drawing on interviews with and following the experiences of individual expert experiencers over time, the research will identify interactive processes through which individuals gain religious intelligences.

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