AoL East and West - A Study of the Art of Living Foundation - Inga Bårdsen Tøllefsen

Inga Bårdsen Tøllefsen [+-]
University of Tromsø.
Inga Bårdsen Tøllefsen is currently a PhD candidate in Religious Studies at the University of Tromsø. Her research interests include new religious movements (especially Indian-oriented movements) and the New Age, religion and gender, and religion and nature. She has published a number of articles (including on Art of Living) and book reviews in international academic journals, and has several articles forthcoming. Additionally she is co-editor of the forthcoming Nordic New Religions (Brill),
Milda Alisauskiene [+-]
Vytautas Magnus University
Associate professor at Department of Sociology, Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania Director of New Religions Research and Information Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania
James R. Lewis [+-]
Wuhan University
James R. Lewis is Professor of Philosophy in the School of Philosophy at Wuhan University. He is well-published in the field of new religious movements. His publications and edited volumes include The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements, Controversial New Religions (with Jesper Petersen), Scientology, Children of Jesus and Mary (with Nicholas Levine), and, most recently, Violence and New Religious Movements.


In her field research on the Art of Living Foundation in Lithuania and in Denmark, Ališauskienė found similarities in both organizations, in their teachings, their structure, their practices, etc. There were, however differences in the degree of ‘scientism’ articulated by Lithuanian and Danish informants. Lithuanians placed significantly greater emphasis on the scientific nature of the doctrine and practices of the Art of Living Foundation. The emphasis on science seems to reflect an understanding of science related to scientific atheism, which was the only criterion of legitimacy during the Soviet period. The majority of Lithuanian informants emphasized that there was no actual membership in the Art of Living Foundation, which according to them indicated the non-religious character of the group. Meanwhile, the majority of informants from Denmark did not avoid talking about religious aspects of AoL, predicting that in the future this organization might become a more widespread religious community. The research also revealed different societal responses to Art of Living. Whereas in Lithuania informants were experiencing negative societal reactions to their group, in Denmark informants encountered a positive response from society, in part because Denmark has a strong tradition of religious pluralism.

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Bårdsen Tøllefsen, Inga; Ališauskienė, Milda; Lewis, James R.. Globalization/Glocalization. AoL East and West - A Study of the Art of Living Foundation. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Oct 2024. ISBN 9781781791332. Date accessed: 03 Dec 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.22337. Oct 2024

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