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Alternative Spiritualities


Admission requirements

Students who have completed either Introduction to New Religions or Introduction to the Study of Religion are automatically admitted to Alternative Spiritualities. Students are also allowed to enroll in the course if they follow Introduction to the Study of Religion in the same semester. All students enrolled in the Minor programme Religion in a changing world may take Alternative Spiritualities as one of their two freely chosen religion courses.

Exchange students who have followed a course on Comparative Religion or a similar course can be admitted on that basis, but must contact one of the teachers beforehand. In some cases, interested students will be required to read additional literature before the course start to achieve the necessary entry level.

A maximum of 20 students can follow this course.


Combining comparative religion and social-scientific approaches, this course gives students an overview of the field of new religiosity which is variably referred to as ‘new age’, ‘the holistic milieu’, and ‘alternative spirituality’. From a comparative religion perspective we will analyse the characteristic practices and beliefs of alternative spirituality. Key practices include healing techniques (such as reiki), body practices (such as yoga), divination (e.g. Tarot, clairvoyance), and channeling and shamanism (i.e. two ways of contacting the spirit world); key belief tenets include a commitment to holism (as opposed to dualism), an ideal of spiritual growth, and the belief in angels and other intermediary beings and in reincarnation and continued contact with the deceased. Drawing on insights from the psychology and sociology of religion, we will furthermore analyse the experiences, emotions, and cognitive modes of participants, and discuss alternative spirituality as a typical late modern religious form.As part of the course, students will visit a Mind-Body-Spirit fair, and we hope in other ways to interact with the field (such as visiting a lecture or workshop). The course is an interactive seminar in which students participate actively with presentations and in discussions.

Course objectives

After successfully completing this course the student has:

  • Acquired a broad knowledge of contemporary, alternative spiritualities.

  • Expanded his/her conceptual and theoretical toolkit and improved his/her ability to employ this toolkit in the analysis of empirical material.

  • Improved his/her skills at oral presentation and discussion (in English).


Please consult the timetabele on the website

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load: 5 × 28 = 140 hours

  • Time spent attending normal sessions:10 × 2 = 20 hours

  • Time spent visiting Mind-Body-Spirit fair and lecture/workshop: 2 × 3 = 6 hours

  • Time spent preparing oral presentation: 10 hours

  • Time spent writing mid-term paper on Mind-Body-Spirit fair: 18 hours

  • Time spent writing end-term paper: 26 hours

  • Time spent studying compulsory literature: c. 420 pages / 7 p/h = 60 hours

Assessment method

The final mark will be determined as a weighted average of four marks:
A. Oral presentation (individual presentation or group presentation, depending on the number of enrolled students). Counts 20 %.
B. Active participation and contribution to class discussions. Counts 10 %.
C. Mid-term field rapport from Mind-Body-Spirit fair. Counts 30 %.
D. End-term take-home exam. Counts 40 %.

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average. To pass the course, students must pass all subtests with at least a sufficient mark (6,0).


The course makes use of Blackboard. All communication will take place via Blackboard, additional information about the course will be available via Blackboard, and assignments must be handed in via Blackboard.

Reading list

No text book will be used for the course. Master copies of articles and book chapters for the course will be made available for students to copy individually. More information about the readings follows on Blackboard in August.


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


The course is taught in English, but the mid-term field rapport and the end-term exam may be written in Dutch.