Spirituality, Health and Wellbeing

Embodying the Dao

Spirituality is crucial to our understanding of the modern world. Our research demonstrates that spiritual movements are not a marginal form of resistance against secular modernity.

Instead, they actively shape our lives in numerous and often cross-cultural ways that range from the introduction of Asian meditation techniques and medical traditions to the revival of spirit mediumship among some religious groups in Britain.

We explore traditional institutionalised religions, and also take the concept of ‘religion’ a crucial step further, thereby engaging a range of themes and current issues that cut across the areas of spirituality, health and wellbeing.

Our interdisciplinary research projects respond to the social, political and intellectual concerns of modern societies and aim to make an active contribution to policy decisions.

Research Activities

‘Well-being and Mindfulness' project (Heather Fish and Rachel Parker)

The Cult of Saints in Wales (Prof. Jane Cartwright)

AHRC-funded research project- transcriptions, editions and translations of hagiographical texts, along with images of the manuscripts and public lectures will be made available throughout 2017 on the project website

Spirituality and Health

Supported by INSPIRE the Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre (RERC) has initiated a new research project on Spirituality and Health which is linked to the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act. The project will study the place of spirituality in therapeutic contexts in the UK and Brazil.

Spiritual experience in the context of counselling and psychotherapy (Dr Jeff Leonardi)

Much of the research into spiritual experience tends to be focussed on individual accounts of personal experiences. The psychotherapeutic literature in general and of the Person-centred approach in particular, however, contains significant references to spiritual experiences in relational contexts, both one-to-one and small and large group. The present research consists in exploring such accounts and the implications of it for the framing of our understanding of spiritual experience.

Health and Spirituality in Brazil – a study of alternative approach to wellbeing (Prof Bettina Schmidt)

The last decades have seen a shift in the understanding of health and wellbeing. After having been limited to “absence of disease” the concept of health is now broadened towards a more holistic understanding of wellness and health. However, there is still little attention on the impact of spirituality. This project will examine the ways how spirituality addresses important questions that have an impact on the quality of life. The focus is on alternative religious practices in Brazil.

Extraordinary Experience, Consciousness, Religious Education and Ecology (Dr Jack Hunter)

Much of my research focusses on the intersections of anthropology, religious studies and parapsychology. In particular I have researched the experiential dimensions of trance and physical mediumship through participant observation at a non-denominational Spiritualist lodge in Bristol. This research focussed on the role of extraordinary experiences in shaping the development of alternative models of self and consciousness amongst practitioners of spirit mediumship. My current research is examining the connections between extraordinary experience and engagement with landscape and ecology, especially in the context of the practice of Permaculture design. I am also exploring the connections between Religious Education (RE) and Religious Studies (RS) in secondary school and further education contexts, and the Anthropology of Religion at university level in an effort to build bridges between disciplines.

Religion and the Internet: theoretical approaches to religion in cyberspace (Prof. Gary Bunt)

The primary contribution of the research is the development of new methodologies and knowledge of the phenomena associated with Islam and Muslims in cyberspace. This has required the development of specific methodological considerations associated with multidisciplinary Religious Studies/Islamic Studies, integrating cyber-cultural considerations with historical factors and theory surrounding political, social and cultural aspects of contemporary Islam. (See also Prof. Bunt’s research website)

F.E.R.C.A.N. Project (Dr Ralph Haeussler)

The aim of the F.E.R.C.AN. (Fontes epigraphici religionum celticarum antiquarum) project is a better understanding of ‘Celtic’ deities, cults and religion(s) in Iron Age and Roman Europe. The project focusses on the analysis of the rich epigraphic evidence in Latin (as well as Celtiberic, Lepontic, Gallo-Greek, Gallo-Latin ones) in a wider socio-religious context.

In press/in preparation

Campion, Nick. Cosmos and Purpose: Cosmology in the Classical World (London: Routledge).

Haeussler, Ralph (with contributions by A.C. King, R. Jackson and R. Tomlin). Corpus-F.E.R.C.AN. (Fontes Epigraphici Religionis Celticae Antiquae), fascicule: Britannia. Wien/Vienna: ÖAW, The Austrian Academy of Science. 2 vols. (in preparation for 2017-2018).

Haeussler, Ralph. Corpus-F.E.R.C.AN. (Fontes Epigraphici Religionis Celticae Antiquae), fascicule Gallia Narbonensis. Wien/Vienna: ÖAW, The Austrian Academy of Science. 2 vols. (in preparation for 2017-2018).

Jansen, Thomas. “The Sacralization of Landscape as Memory Space in Early Medieval China.” In: R. Haeussler, E.M. Betts, G. F. Chiai (eds.). Sacred Landscapes: Creation, Manipulation & Transformation. Oxford: Oxbow, forthcoming.

Zinn, Katharina. Creation and conservation of Sacred Landscapes: Amarna and Abydos – keeping the spirit alive? In: R. Haeussler, E.M. Betts, G. F. Chiai (eds.). Sacred Landscapes: Creation, Manipulation & Transformation. Oxford: Oxbow, forthcoming.


Hunter, Jack. (2018). 'Preliminary Report on Extraordinary Experience in Permaculture: Collapsing the Natural/Supernatural Divide.' Journal of Exceptional Experiences and Psychology, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 12-22.

Hunter, Jack. (2018). 'Reflecting on Edith Turner's Work and Influence.' Journal for the Study of Religious Experience. Vol. 4, No. 1. pp. 102-104.


Abbots, Emma-Jayne. The Agency of Eating: Mediation, Food and the Body (London: Bloomsbury, 2017) (Contemporary Food Studies Series)

Hunter, Jack. (2017). 'Religious Education and the Paranormal: Reflections on Discussing Anomalous Experiences in the Classroom.Religious Studies News: Spotlight on Teaching, October, pp. 4-8.

Rahemtulla, Shadaab. Qur’an of the Oppressed: Liberation Theology and Gender Justice in Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).


Attala, L. ‘Digesting ‘Cryptid’ Snakes: A phenomenological approach to the Mythic and Cosmogenetic Properties of Serpent Hallucinations’ in Hurn. S (ed.) Cryptozoology: cross cultural engagements with mysterious creatures, Ashgate: London, 2016.

Bunt, Gary. “Is it possible to have a ‘religious experience’ in cyberspace?”, in Bettina E. Schmidt (ed.), The Study of Religious Experience (Sheffield: Equinox Publishing, 2016).

Cartwright, Jane (ed.). The Cult of St Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2016).

Hunter, Jack. (2016). ‘Engaging the Anomalous: Reflections from the Anthropology of the Paranormal.’ European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 170-178.

Jansen, Thomas. “Embodied spirituality and self-divinization: A re-reading of the Legend of Princess Miaoshan.” In Exploring the Materiality of Food “Stuffs”: Archaeological and Anthropological Perspectives. Ed. by Louise Steel and Katharina Zinn. London: Routledge, 2016, pp. 103-117. 

Nash, Tristan. “Religious Experiences – Causes and Revelations”, in Bettina Schmidt (ed.), The Study of Religious Experience (Sheffield: Equinox, 2016).

Schmidt, Bettina E. (ed.) The Study of Religious Experience. London: Equinox, 2016.

Schmidt, Bettina E. Spirit and Trance in Brazil: Anthropology of Religious Experiences. London: Bloomsbury, 2016.

Schmidt, Bettina E. “Körperwissen im Candomblé: Ein Einblick in die Geisterbesessenheit Brasiliens.“ Paragrana 2 (2016), 299-312.

Schmidt, Bettina E. “Mermaids in Brazil – the (ongoing) creolization of the water goddesses Oxum and Iemanjá.” In: Anthropology and Cryptozoology: Exploring Encounters with Mysterious Creatures, ed. by Samantha Hurn. London: Routledge, pp. 157-170.

Williams, Catrin H. “Text and Experience: Reflections on ‘Seeing’ in the Gospel of John”, in B. Schmidt (ed.), The Study of Religious Experience (London: Equinox, 2016), 135-50.

Williams, Jeni. “Place, Space and Self: Site-Responsive Art in a Globalised World”, Journal of Writing and Creative Practice special edition: Place-based Arts (January 2016)


Abbots, Emma-Jayne. “Buying the Ties that Bind: Consumption, Care and Investment among Transnational Households in Highland Ecuador.” In Intimacies, Families and the Practices of Consumption, E.Casey & Y. Taylor (eds.), Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Attala, L. “Reflecting on the Embodied Intersections of Eating and Caring”, in Abbots, EJ., Lavis, A., and Attala, L. Careful Eating: Bodies, Food and Care Critical Food Studies Series Ashgate: Surrey, USA, 2015.

Campion, Nick. The New Age in the Modern West: Counter-Culture, Utopia and Prophecy from the late Eighteenth Century to the Present Day (London: Bloomsbury 2015).

Campion, Nick. Astrology and Popular Religion in the Modern West: Prophecy, Cosmology and the New Age Movement (Farnham: Ashgate; London: Routledge, 2015).

Hunter, Jack. (2015). ‘Between Realness and Unrealness”: Anthropology, Parapsychology and the Ontology of Non-Ordinary Realities.’ Diskus: Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religion, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 4-20.

Hunter, Jack. (2015). ‘“Spirits are the Problem”: Anthropology and Conceptualising Spiritual Beings.’ Journal for the Study of Religious Experience, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 76-86.

Rahemtulla, Shadaab. “Toward a Genuine Congregation: The Form of the Muslim Friday Prayer, Revisited.” In Only One is Holy: Liturgy in Postcolonial Perspectives, edited by Cláudio Carvalhaes. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Schmidt, Bettina E. “Spirit Mediumship in Brazil: The Controversy about Semi-Conscious Mediums.” DISKUS: The Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions 17:2 (2015), 38-53.

Schmidt, Bettina E. “Afro-Atlantic religions; Gender; Loa; Orishas.” In: Spirit Possession around the World: Possession, Communion, and Demon Expulsion across Cultures, editor in chief: Joseph P. Laycock. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, pp. 2-6, 132-135, 216-218, 263-266.

Schmidt, Bettina E. “‘Schön – was ist das?‘ Afro-deutsche Frauen und die Wahrnehmung weiblicher Körper in Deutschland” [=‘Beautiful – what does it mean?‘ Afro-German women and the perception of the female body in Germany]. Hessische Blätter für Volks- und Kulturforschung 49 (2015), 29-41.


Abbots, Emma-Jayne. “Investing in the Family’s Future: Labour, Gender and Consumption in Highland Ecuador.” Families, Relationships and Societies 3(1) (2014), 143-148.  

Abbots, Emma-Jayne. “Embodying Country-City Relations: The Figure of the Chola Cuencana in Highland Ecuador.” In Food Between the Country and the City: Ethnographies of a Changing Global Foodscape, N. Domingos, J. Sobral & H.G. West (eds.), pp 41-57, London: Bloomsbury, 2014.

Ihssen, Brenda Llewellyn. John Moschos’ Spiritual Meadow: Authority and Autonomy at the End of the Antique World. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2014.

Jansen, Thomas. Timothy Richard (1845-1919): A Welsh Missionary, Educator and Reformer in China. Exhibition brochure. Lampeter, 2014. 27 pp. 

Jansen, Thomas (with Thoralf Klein and Christian Meyer) (eds.). Globalization and the Making of Religious Modernity in China: Transnational Religions, Local Agents, and the Study of Religion, 1800-Present. Boston: Brill, 2014. 

Jansen, Thomas. “Sectarian Responses to Foreign Presence in China in the Nineteenth Century: The Wanbao baojuan 萬寳寶卷 (1858) and other examples.” In: Globalization and the Making of Religious Modernity in China: Transnational Religions, Local Agents, and the Study of Religion, 1800-Present. Edited by Thomas Jansen, Thoralf Klein and Christian Meyer. Boston: Brill, 2014, pp. 115-35. 

Schmidt, Bettina E. “The Problem with Numbers in Study of Religions: Introduction.” DISKUS, The Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions 16:2 (2014), 1-4.

Schmidt, Bettina E.  “Spirit Possession in Brazil. The Perception of the (possessed) Body.” Anthropos 109:1 (2014), 135-147.

Schmidt, Bettina E. “Mediumship in Brazil: The Holy War against Spirits and African Gods.” In: Jack Hunter and David Luke (eds.), Talking With the Spirits: Ethnographies from Between the Worlds. Brisbane: Daily Grail Publ., 2014, 209-239.


Cartwright, Jane. Mary Magdalene and her Sister Martha: An Edition and Translation of the Medieval Welsh Lives (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University Press, 2013) Winner of the Vernam Hull Prize

Ihssen, Brenda Llewellyn. “They Who Give From Evil”; the Response of the Eastern Church to Moneylending in the Early Christian Era. Cambridge: James Clarke, 2013.

Ihssen, Brenda Llewellyn. “Money in the Meadow: Conversion and Coin in John Moschos’ Pratam Spirituale,” Studia Patristica Historica, Biblica, Theologica et Philosophica. Markus Vinzent, ed. Peeters, Leuven, Belgium.

Schmidt, Bettina E. “‘Religion is what people do’: Popular Religion in the Ecuadorian Andes.” RE News, Vol.  92 (Winter 2013), 74-78.


Campion, Nick. Astrology and Cosmology in the World’s Religions (New York: New York University Press, 2012).

Ihssen, Brenda Llewellyn. “Natural Disasters as Moral Lessons: Nazianzus and New Orleans,” co-author with Dr. Kevin O’Brian and Ms. Anna Duke. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture, Vol. 6, No. 1.

Jansen, Thomas. “Sacred Text.” In: The Blackwell Companion to Chinese Religions. Ed. by Randall L. Nadeau. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 285-308. 

Rahemtulla, Shadaab. “Im Schatten des Christentums? Die Herausforderung einer Islamischen Befreiungstheologie” [In the Shadow of Christianity? The Challenge of an Islamic Liberation Theology]. In Gott und 25/01/17 Befreiung. Befreiungstheologische Konzepte in Islam und Christentum [God and Liberation: Concepts of Liberation Theology in Islam and Christianity], edited by Klaus von Stosch and Muna Tatari. Paderborn, Germany: Schöningh, 2012.

Forthcoming events

1st -3rd July 2019: The Religious Experience Research Centre Conference 2019: “The Future of the Study of Religious and Spiritual Experience: 50th Anniversary of the Religious Experience Research Centre”.

Recent events (selection)

5th All-Wales Mindfulness Practitioners Conference (18 October 2018)

Lampeter Interfaith Conference: Spirituality and Wellbeing (18 July 2018)

Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre Conference 2017 (16th July)

Spirituality and Health Research Seminars (Convenors: Prof. Bettina Schmidt, Dr Jeff Leonardi)

15 March 2017: Mindfulness, Spirituality and the medical profession
22 February 2017: Spirituality and Trauma
13 October 2016: Body
30 November 2016: Shamanism
20 April 2016 - Mindfulness
17 February 2016 - Community
11th November 2015 – Personhood

July 2016: ‘Living on the Earth: Charting a Course for Harmony Conference’ a day with David Cadman (Gaia Foundation), Tony Juniper (Prince of Wales, International sustainability Unit), and John Sauven (Greenpeace). Organised by the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture and the Institute of Sustainable Practice, Innovation and Resource Effectiveness, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, in partnership with Schumacher College (http://sophia-project.net/CandE/studydays/courseofharmony/)

July 2016: BRISMES Annual Conference 2016 Networks. 'Connecting the Middle East through Time, Space and Cyberspace', University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter Campus. Conference convenor: Prof. Gary Bunt (UWTSD)

January 2016: BANEA Conference Sacred Nature & Structuring the Sacred: Constructing and Re-Writing Sacred Landscapes in the Ancient Near East. Convenors: Dr Ralph Haeussler (UWTSD), Gian Franco Chiai (BBAW, Berlin)

Our research aims to actively engage with the Well being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, the first law world-wide that obliges public bodies in Wales to consider the long-term impact of the decisions they make and to place sustainability at the heart of their operations.

The Faculty of Humanities and Performing Arts has launched the Well-being and Mindfulness Project. In collaboration with Carmarthenshire County Council, project staff is working on mindfulness for teachers, school staff and children.

Our research is firmly embedded in our teaching. We take, moreover, special pride from fostering a culture of student research at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Our undergraduates regularly present their own research at the British Conference for Undergraduate Research (BCUR), at Posters in Parliament or at one of the research conferences organised by our students on campus.

African deity Obaluae responsible for healing

buddhist temple

Face in stone

Spiritual stone