​Encountering the Divine: Developing a Framework of Religious Intelligence
TWCF Number
Project Duration
February 1 / 2023
- June 1 / 2024
Core Funding Area
Big Questions
North America
Amount Awarded

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Anna I. Corwin
Institution California Institute of Integral Studies

In her work with Catholic nuns over the past decade, Anna I. Corwin of California Institute of Integral Studies has had numerous interactions with individuals — or "expert experiencers"  — who describe gaining knowledge directly from God. For instance, a Catholic nun reports hearing God speak to her, telling her the amoebas in her body are God and should be treated with love. Another nun, plagued with fear, has a vision of Jesus wrapping his arms around her and dissolving her fear — a vision that transforms her interactions in the world for decades to come. 

Across cultural communities, humans report learning from and being changed by their interactions with the divine. Yet little is known about the ways of knowing, perspectives, and capacities that arise through these experiences, and how this knowledge is communicated to others.

With this project, Corwin is interested in undertaking a close study of people with long training in spiritual/religious experience. The target “experiencers” are to be drawn from Christian, Jewish, Shamanistic, Buddhist, and Hindu communities.

Corwin proposes to apply social-science research tools to tease out the structure and patterns of their “spiritual intelligence” by attempting to:

  • Understand how “expert experiencers” communicate with the divine/supernatural and how they make sense of these interactions.
  • Determine whether there are cross-cultural patterns in types of knowledge, skill sets, and ways of discerning knowledge about/from the environment that reveal commonalities across religious and cultural settings.
  • Examine the “ripple effect” of these experiences and knowledge in the community to understand how religious intelligence is disseminated among community members.”

The aim of this work is to build a critical foundation for understanding what religious intelligences could be and how they might interactively arise.

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