Repose, Insight, Activity: A Trinity of Spiritual Exercises
TWCF Number
Project Duration
September 1 / 2024
- August 31 / 2027
Core Funding Area
Big Questions
Amount Awarded

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Fraser Watts
Institution The International Society for Science and Religion

Marius Dorobantu
Institution Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The project will examine the benefits delivered by various kinds of religious and spiritual exercise and how they do so. There are various different causal pathways by which spiritual exercises can deliver well-being benefits, and exercises vary between themselves in which are the most prominent. This project is pathbreaking in taking account of the rich variety of spiritual exercises, and the range of different causal pathways by which they benefit well-being. The project team propose a three-fold classification of spiritual exercises, which they will develop and refine, framed in terms of a cognitive architecture.

The team will compare three different spiritual exercises, each against a specially designed control condition in a cross-over design, using both short-term measures designed to pick up within-session change, and also looking at the accumulation of well-being benefits. These three evaluations, in closely comparable studies, will enable them also to compare the effects of different kinds of exercises, and the causal pathways by which they deliver benefits. The scientific research will be published in a high-impact scientific journal.

All three spiritual exercises will be nested within the ongoing work of a practitioner community. The project team will collect both objective scientific data, but also the insiders’ insights of those using spiritual exercises. They will approach the question of how spiritual exercises deliver benefits from the converging perspectives of both theory-based science and science-engaged theology. This will help the team to communicate the results of their research to practitioner communities, and increase the impact of our research on subsequent spiritual practices. They will also develop and publish an integrative religious understanding of spiritual exercises that engages with scientific research, and will be disseminated to religious scholars and practitioners; and will hold a conference in Copenhagen on religious and spiritual practices.

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