Online Conference 22-24 May 2023
The conference Spiritual exercises, self-transformation and liberation in philosophy, theology and religion is inspired by Pierre Hadot’s pioneering work on philosophy as a way of life (manière de vivre). It builds on the significance Hadot attributed to spiritual exercises (exercices spirituels), arguing that these were, beside philosophical discourse, constitutive of philosophical enterprise in Greco-Roman antiquity and beyond. Hadot’s initial insight was subsequently developed, in his own distinctive manner, by Michel Foucault in theorizing the technologies of the self and care of the self, and has ever since received considerable attention from scholars working in the field of philosophy, theology as well as religious studies.
Hadot defined spiritual exercises (exercices spirituels) as “voluntary, personal practices intended to bring about a transformation of the individual, a transformation of the self” that rises the individual from an inauthentic condition of life to an authentic one, providing peace of mind (ataraxia), inner freedom (autarkeia) and cosmic consciousness. Furthermore, relying on the work of Paul Rabbow, Hadot acknowledged that the expression exercices spirituels is derived from the Catholic theologian Ignatius of Loyola’s Exercitia spiritualia (1548), but that this phrase had a philosophical, Greco-Roman origin that was later inherited by Christian monks who employed it to denote their own practice.
The purpose of this conference is to initiate interdisciplinary research on spiritual exercises in global perspective, identify primary sources in philosophy, theology and religious writings addressing these practices, and to address a number of relevant themes and challenges that such research entails. The conference also aims to help establishing an interdisciplinary, academic network that will allow for future collaborations in the research activities that will be defined in a research project to be submitted to the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) in 2024.
The conference is organized in collaboration between Pawel Odyniec from the Department of Political, Historical and Religious Studies at Karlstad University and Ervik Cejvan from the Centre for Theology and Religious Studies at Lund University.
Pawel Odyniec is a lecturer (universitetsadjunkt) in Religious Studies at Karlstad University, Sweden. He holds a PhD in Indology (UU) and three MA degrees in Philosophy (UAB), History of Religion (UAB) and Indian Philosophy and Religion (BHU). His research interest covers the area of Classical Indian philosophy in Sanskrit, particularly Advaita Vedānta and Kashmir Śaivism, Modern Indian philosophy in English and Hindi, as well as South Asian religions. He is also interested in cross-cultural approach to philosophy as a way of life (PWL). Pawel is the author of Engaging Advaita: Conceptualising liberating knowledge in the face of Western modernity (2018) and “Rethinking Advaita Within the Colonial Predicament: the ‘Confrontative’ Philosophy of K. C. Bhattacharyya (1875-1949)” (2018).
Ervik Cejvan is a researcher affiliated with the Centre for Theology and Religious Studies at Lund University, Sweden. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion (LU). His research interests intersect between philosophy, literature, psychoanalysis and art. In Philosophy as a Way of Life, he is interested in the relationship between philosophy and spirituality, writing and psychagogy, and wisdom traditions. Ervik is the author of Critique of Exaggeration: Thinking Beyond (2021).