CHRONICLE 2, JuNE 5th 2019

A window to a new religious cosmopolitan world

Katarina Westerlund

It is a common thought that Sweden is becoming more and more secularized. That people and organizations are becoming less and less orientated towards religious beliefs and religious ways of living. However, simultaneously to this process, a religious revival is taking place right in front of us. In big cosmopolitan cities like London, Paris and Stockholm, Pentecostal migrant congregations are multiplying. In the Stockholm area we currently find among 100 Pentecostal migrant churches, of which approx. 70 have sprung up in the city stage since the year 2000.

In a newly started research project, Pentecostal Migration in Secular Sweden: Influences and Challenges, at the Uppsala Religion and Society Research Centre, we will study this charismatic revival, that is a part of a global movement affecting cosmopolitan cites all over the world.

These churches, their growing numbers in Sweden and their global connections, has not yet attracted much attention. This research will therefore open a new window by investigating this religious revival in the capital of Sweden. This window will also make visible the many and diverse contacts these churches have in other parts of the world, both through the migrant’s nationalities and the profound international character of these churches.

The project is multi-disciplinary, with researchers from anthropology, church history, eccesiology, sociology of religion, theology, and constitutional law. This broad competence and scope will provide a comprehensive map of this unknown religious revival. But we will also provide an immense understanding of the life and faith of the new Swedes that form these churches.

Starting this fall, we have initiated field work in three churches in the Stockholm area, one Latin-American, one Arabic and one African church. Interestingly enough, in each one of them several nationalities are intermixed. It is a fascinating journey that has started to unfold, both the ones told by the Pentecostal migrants and the one undertaken by those of us who do the research. We visit services, meetings and conferences, conduct personal interviews with pastors and members, we follow their social media feeds and other outreach activities. Through this, the window that has opened slightly offers a rich material.

During the summer the growing number of migrant churches – of different denominations – will be highlighted during a seminar at Almedalen. Two of the project members– Magdalena Nordin and Torbjörn Aronsson – will take part and discuss religion as an important aspect of the integration of migrants. The question for the seminar: What is the role of religion in integration in Sweden today?, is a hot topic of the day and also of deep importance for the project. It is however not the only view that will be visible through this new window being opened, but that is a story that will be able to be told later on…

CHRONICLE 1, December 3th 2018

Philosophical analysis of the world-view of anthroposophy

by Oliver Lee

In September I received a one-year scholarship from Axel Margaret Ax:son Johnsons stiftelse for a philosophical analysis of the world-view of anthroposophy.
In the past century, anthroposophy has been one of the most well-known and influential alternative spiritual movements. There are worldwide over one thousand Waldorf schools, nearly two thousand kindergartens, and some six hundred social therapy facilities working in accordance with ideas from the anthroposophical worldview. Furthermore, ideas from anthroposophy have influenced and inspired ecological farming, alternative medicine, religion, the arts and architecture leading for example to the method of biodynamic farming or the foundation of Christengemeinschaft.

Anthroposophy does not regard itself as a religion or religious world-view. Steiner often emphasizes that the claims made in his world-view are based on a method close to the methods of natural science. This claim is for example reflected in the subtitle Some results of introspective observation following the methods of Natural Science of his foundational book The Philosophy of Freedom. Nevertheless, many features such as the distinction between the physical body, an etherical body, an astral body, and the "I", the use of the concepts of reincarnation and karma, meditation practices, implicit recommendations related to the way of living, or Steiner's esoteric teachings prompt associations of a supernaturalistic or a religious world-view. Given the clear and massive impact of anthroposophy on modern societies mainly in the Western hemisphere, but also elsewhere, a philosophical analysis including a constructive dialogue of the epistemological and metaphysical foundations of anthroposophy is well motivated. In recent years it has also been suggested to widen the scope of philosophy of religion which often has been restricted to the Christian tradition.

The aim of this project is to identify major epistemological and metaphysical claims within anthroposophy, to identify how Steiner originally argued for and justified these claims, to analyze and critically asses them, and also to attempt to engage in a constructive dialogue between contemporary academic philosophy of religion and anthroposophy.
At present, an article, which identifies and analyses ideas about reincarnation and karma within anthroposophy has been submitted for peer-review. Studying the epistemological approach in the early philosophical works by Steiner and the credibility, plausibility, and epistemological status of the results of Steiner's esoteric path of knowledge will be the next step in this philosophical analysis.