A2 Spiritual Transition 2.0?

Chair: Barbora Spalová

Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University in Prague


Contributions of the panel „Spiritual transition 2. 0?“ deal with the realities of contemporary western societies which have growing importance but the social scientists are somehow slow to conceptualise them. The field observation prove that the old conceptual opposition such as church versus sect, cult; religion versus spirituality or spiritual movement; individuality versus community can be applied but it doesn´t bring satisfactory understanding of the phenomena.  What can bring the cognitive anthropological approach and the detailed analysis of self-conceptualisation of the „spiritual and/or religious“ groups?



Friday, September 12, 2014

Room A

16:30-17:30 Spiritual Transition 2.0?

Chair:  Barbora Spalová


16:30-17:00        Andrea Beláňová, Zdeňka Pitrunová: “From Cult to Organisation?” Twenty years of change in two new religious movements (GSC)

17:00-17:30        Vit Pokorný: Altering consciousness in the age of transition



“From Cult to Organisation?”  Twenty years of change in two new religious movements

Andrea Beláňová and Zdeňka Pitrunová

(Department for the Study of Religions, Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University, Brno)

In the 1997, the “Moonies” (or Unification Church) were denied to be legally recognized as a state church. One of the official reasons was the group’s subversive and “cultic” nature. In 90s, it did not stop the movement from membership growth and boom of public activities. Seventeen years later, the Unification Church practically disappeared from the public view. There are only hundreds of members left. The cultic panic is gone. The “Hare Krishna” movement is more visible due to various activities (restaurants, festivals, public dancing etc.).  In the 1997 the group made an attempt to establish religion based school but did not succeed. How do they educate their children these days? The paper follows the development and changes of two minority religious groups in The Czech Republic and promotes reasons for the shift from viewing them as a cult to established organization with reference to the general changes in the society.



Altering consciousness in the age of transition

Vít Pokorný

(Department of Contemporary Continental Philosophy, Institute of Philosophy, AoS CR; Department of General Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities, Charles University, Prague)

Czech society after the 1989 has experienced profound change in terms of worldview and spirituality in connection to the mind altering substances and techniques. Cannabis has become a major drug in younger generations, growing number of people have experienced transformative potential of hallucinogenic substances (LSD, psylocibae mushrooms, MDMA, Salvia Divinorum, ayahuasca and others), neoshamanic, neo-paganic and other new age spiritualities started emerging, mind altering therapeutic techniques (meditation, focusing, sensory deprivation, dreaming practices, breath works, etc.) has found its place in psychotherapy.

Different kinds of consciousness alteration and mind extension has been first practiced at the outskirts of major society within various alternative subcultures and „gray“ autonomous zones including musical communities (reggae, tekno, psytrance, EBM, etc.), alternative healers, esoteric circles (card reading, numerology, astrology, etc.), new religious movements (appropriations of Rastafarianism, Amazonian shamanism, Buddhism, etc.) and so on. But slowly, they are becoming a part of a broadly shared social paradigm, leading even to the local social conflicts (CzechTek 2005, Marihuana March disputes, police action against growshops in 2014, ).

This kind of change can be studied within the scope of cognitive anthropology as a change of cognitive schemas and practices including these (and many other) topics: influence of mind alteration on adolescence and formation of mature identities; testing boundaries of individual and collective cognitive freedom; emergence of neoshamanic spiritualities; and generally creating of anarchic pools of ideas which inspire formation of a new cultural sensitivities for which the similar status can be claimed, in terms of worldview horizons, as D. Graeber claims for the Occupy movement, in terms of political horizons, when saying: „What they don’t understand is that once people’s political horizons have been broadened, the change is permanent.“