Spiritually transformative experiences are among the most powerful experiences human beings can have. They lie at the core of various world religions. Scientists have recently begun to engage in ground-breaking studies of spiritual transformation from biological, psychological, and socio-cultural perspectives, and the topic is of central interest as well to contemporary philosophical and religious thought.
The Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS) is holding a week-long conference on this topic on Star Island, located off the coast of Portsmouth NH, from July 30 – August 6, 2005. The conference, entitled “Varieties of Spiritual Transformation: Scientific and Religious Perspectives,” is co-chaired by neurobiologist Andy Newberg and religion scholar Karl Peters and is open to all interested persons.
Speakers and workshop leaders will address the following kinds of questions: What is spiritual transformation? Under what conditions and with what practices are transformative changes in the brain observed by neurobiologists? To what extent is spiritual transformation beyond conscious control? What physiological, cognitive, affective, and behavioral changes result from spiritual transformation, and how do these influence health? What are individual, group, and social benefits and/or costs of spiritual transformation experiences? What are the theological meanings of experiences of spiritual transformation?
IRAS has been sponsoring conferences on the interface between religion and science on Star Island for 50 years, and we offer numerous opportunities to explore these questions in lecture discussions, workshops, and informal conversation. The island experience also includes a spectacular setting, non-denominational chapel gatherings, and many venues for both quiet reflection and communal activities. An excellent children’s program is also offered.
Details about the invited speakers, conference registration, and IRAS can be found at http://www.iras.org/conference.html.