Chapter 7: On the Edge of the Inside: Contemplative Approaches to the Study of Religion
Lynne Scholefield [+]
St Mary's University
Feminist epistemology encourages us to practise ‘situated knowing’, an inter-subjective approach which, at its best, enables us to begin to know the ‘other’ without collapsing the differences between us. However, fieldwork with religious communities often demonstrates the challenging nature of this approach - religious ‘others’ are often rejected or punished for their ‘otherness or ‘outsideness’. The chapter examines this issue by reflecting upon participant observation undertaken with religious practitioners influenced by the work of Ken Wilber and others, who have sought to teach a contemplative form of higher consciousness which they believe reflects a harmony between the insights of religious worldviews and contemporary scientific research. This approach to contemplative consciousness is then applied to issues of religious conversion, building on the author’s previous work on the ‘fuzzy frontiers’ of religious identity during conversion narratives. In so doing, it is hoped that a model of engagement which values inter-subjective engagement with our chosen communities of study may be advocated - a reflective approach which encourages the researcher to ‘get on the edge of the inside’ of their ‘subjects’ of study.