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Constructing and Contesting the Shrine: Tourist Performances at Seimei Shrine, KyotoJapanese Shinto shrines are popular pilgrimage sites not only for religious reasons, but also because of their connections to popular culture. This study discusses how tourism is involved in the construction of the shrine space by focusing on the material environment of the shrine, visitor performances, and how the shrine is contested by different actors. The subject of the study, Seimei Shrine, is a shrine dedicated to the legendary figure Abe no Seimei (921–1005), who is frequently featured in popular culture. Originally a local shrine, Seimei Shrine became a tourist attraction for fans of the novel series Onmyōji (1986–) and the movie adaptation (2001). Since then, the shrine has branded itself by placing themed statues, which realize the legend of Abe no Seimei in material form, while also attracting religious and touristic practices. On the other hand, visitors also bring new meanings to the shrine and its objects. They understand the shrine through different kinds of interactions with the objects, through performances such as touching and remembering. However, the material objects, their interpretation and performances are also an arena of conflict and contestation, as different actors become involved through tourism. This case study shows how religion and tourism are intertwined in the late-modern consumer society, which affects both the ways in which the shrine presents and reinvents itself, as well as how visitors understand and perform within the shrine.
Effect of a One-Week Spiritual Retreat on Brain Functional Connectivity: A Preliminary StudyBackground: Many individuals participate in spiritual retreats to enhance their sense of spirituality or to improve their overall mental and spiritual well-being. We are not aware of any studies specifically evaluating changes in functional connectivity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in individuals undergoing an intense spiritual retreat program. The goal of this study was to determine whether such changes occur as a result of participating in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Methods: We conducted psychological and spiritual measures in conjunction with functional connectivity analysis of fMRI in 14 individuals prior to and following shortly after their participation in a one-week spiritual retreat. Results: Significant changes in functional connectivity were observed after the retreat program, compared to baseline evaluation, particularly in the posterior cingulate cortex, pallidum, superior frontal lobe, superior parietal lobe, superior and inferior temporal lobe, and the cerebellum. Significant changes in a variety of psychological and spiritual measures were identified as result of participation in the retreat. Conclusion: Overall, these preliminary findings suggest that this intensive spiritual retreat resulted in significant changes in brain functional connectivity, and warrants further investigation to evaluate the physiological, psychological, and spiritual impact of these changes.
James Sterba’s New Argument from EvilThis article addresses the main argument in James Sterba’s book, an argument which claims that the existence of a good God is logically incompatible with the evil in the world. I claim to show that his main premise, MEPRI, is implausible and is not a secure foundation for such an argument.
Circle of Fear in Early ChinaMontesquieu wrote that “China is a despotic state whose principle is fear”. And indeed, in the early modern context in China, fear and despotism, on the one hand, were opposed to <i>ziyou</i> 自由 (“freedom”), on the other. These constructs created a discursive space in which theorists of the nation-state felt the need to articulate the complex relations binding despotism to fear. By contrast, during the early empires in China a different set of relations was imagined, wherein salutary <i>fear</i> was aligned against both despotism and freedom and, crucially, with according others a proper sense of dignity. For by the arguments of remote antiquity, “submission to instruction and fear of the gods” functioned both as a vital check on despotism and as the key barrier to the unchecked and unhampered self-assertion by subjects <i>and</i> rulers. Yet this notion of ritual operating within a circle of fear it helped to foster has so far escaped scholarly notice, perhaps because it does not square with the ritual theories that dominate our modern discourse and perhaps because such ritual fear has been dismissed easily as remnant, primitive superstition.
Spirituality and Health in Brazil: A Survey Snapshot of Research GroupsArticles on “Spirituality and Health” have multiplied considerably in Brazil in the last decade. More recently, however, research groups created specifically to investigate this topic have emerged. This study aims to provide an overview of the field by means of a survey in the Directory of Research Groups in Brazil. Thirty-three groups were initially identified, of which 16 were selected for analysis and placed into two categories: “established” groups and lines of research, and “in-process” groups and lines of research. The survey made it possible to identify postgraduate programs that develop studies on this theme, the main researchers, and the potentials and challenges of this research field in Brazil. The results also indicate that “Spirituality and Health” is a fundamentally interdisciplinary field of research that is expanding and has gained greater legitimacy in the scientific community in the last four years. The main challenges to and potentials for advancement of knowledge are the need for theoretical and methodological development to support research, educational improvement in spiritual care, development of a critical and conscious reflection on the political implications of the field (especially due to the religious diversity in the Brazilian cultural context), and the role of spirituality/religiosity in public health promotion policies.