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The Human Nature Review Human Nature Review  2002 Volume 2: 179-182 ( 4 May )
URL of this document http://human-nature.com/nibbs/02/katz.html


From Solomon H. Katz


The Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program

I would like to announce to the readers of The Human Nature Review the newly formed Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program. This program will fund ten $150,000 grants for investigators who are interested in conducting research on the nature of spiritual transformation. We encourage you to visit the Web site for complete details on the program and to register there http://www.spiritualtransformationresearch.org so that you will receive program updates and the latest in research funding opportunities. Below this letter is the Request for Proposals which offers an overview of the research program.

The Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program is being overseen by myself and an advisory board and consultants whose members include Edward Foulks (Tulane University), Philip Hefner (Zygon Center for Religion and Science), David Hufford (Penn State College of Medicine), Byron Johnson (University of Pennsylvania), Joan Koss-Chioino (Arizona State University), Kenneth Pargament (Bowling Green State University), Lawrence Sullivan (Harvard University), and Robert Wuthnow (Princeton University).

If you are interested in submitting a letter of intent to the program, please follow the guidelines for online submission on or before June 1, 2002 that are elaborated on the Web site. The program will also sponsor a research conference in October 2002 for 40 invited participants based upon the letters of intent that we receive. I hope you will join with us in this exciting endeavour and help to develop a network of interested and active investigators in this new field of inquiry.

I am also hoping that you might be able to recommend other researchers who may be interested in participating in this program. Please feel free to forward this email on to interested colleagues. If you have any questions after you have had a chance to explore the Web site and the request for proposals, or additional questions about forwarding this email to interested colleagues, please don't hesitate to contact me at katz@metanexus.net.

Yours Sincerely,

Solomon H. Katz
Principal Investigator
Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program
President, Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science


Advancing New Interdisciplinary Studies in the Human Sciences
Call for Proposals for $150,000 Research Grants
Letter of Intent due no later than June 1, 2002
Research Colloquium, October 5 - 7, 2002

Throughout history and in our own time, humans have had profound experiences with a spiritual dimension of reality. In all traditions, individuals testify that their lives are no longer the same in the aftermath of these experiences, that they have been transformed. Independent observers often attest to these changes as well. Can the study of the nature of such changes offer another possibility for developing new insights into, improved understanding of, and greater appreciation for spiritually transforming experiences?

The 100th anniversary of William James' classic work, The Varieties of Religious Experience, provides an historic waypoint for us to reconsider the scientific study of religious and spiritual phenomena. Anthropology, sociology, psychology, psychiatry, pharmacology, neurology, biology, neuroscience, religious studies, and cognate fields overlap in an interdisciplinary study of diverse and sometimes ambivalent religious phenomena. William James reminds us that "the varieties of religious experiences" should be "judged by their fruits, not by their roots." What are the "fruits of the spirit" as witnessed in numerous and remarkable accounts of spiritual transformation? How might we better understand these perennial and peculiar transformations in human thought and behavior?

While the human and social sciences have made great progress in the last century, religious and spiritual phenomena have infrequently been the focus of such scientific and systematic analyses. We have many new tools and methods to describe, detect, measure, and understand complex human phenomena, but we have not made much progress in research into religious phenomena since William James's famous Gifford lectures. This lack of scientific study is due, in part, to the long-term historical divide between scientific investigation and matters of religion. We seek to create a new field of inquiry, freed from the prejudices of the past, able to examine diverse religious and spiritual phenomena with scientific rigor. One such phenomenon is that of "spiritual transformation".

In order to provide a working definition of "spiritual transformation" for purposes of launching this inquiry, we initially define it as dramatic changes in world and self views, purposes, religious beliefs, attitudes, and behavior. These changes are often linked to discrete experiences that can occur gradually or over relatively short periods of time. This change usually occurs within three contexts: (i) As an intensified devotion within the same religious structure; (ii) A shift from no spiritual commitment to a devout spiritual life; or (iii) A change from one faith tradition to another. These changes are sometimes precipitated by stress and anguish, induced through rigorous practices, and can also occur spontaneously without apparent corollaries.

A number of studies and theoretical perspectives are suggestive of the kind of research areas involved in the phenomena of spiritual transformation. Insights can be derived from the cognitive sciences (McCallister, 1995), coping theory (Pargament, 1997), flow theory (Czikszentminhalyi, 1991), neuropsychology (Lex, 1978), attachment theory (Kirkpatrick 1997), and relationship dynamics (Rambo, 1993; Ullman, 1989). Practices that may be important include pilgrimage, meditation, prayer, confession, conversion, healing, readings of sacred texts, "telling one's story", and acts of service to others. These perspectives and practices raise many questions concerning the various pathways, contexts, outcomes, and techniques involved in spiritual transformation. Hence, a goal of this research program is to develop new, better integrated studies that address these emerging questions.

The Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science is pleased to announce a $2.5 million research program on the nature of spiritual transformation. The Spiritual Transformation Research Program will include: (i) Submission of letters of intent from prospective principal investigators by June 1st, 2002; (ii) An invitation-only research conference October 5-7, 2002 designed for forty prospective principal investigators to address issues pertaining to literature review, methodology, research design, peer review processes, and the establishment of a network of active investigators; (iii) Submission of completed proposals by January 6th, 2003 and selection of ten projects to be funded by March 1st, 2003, with each project to receive approximately $150,000 over a two-year period to conduct research on the nature of spiritual transformation; (iv) A public conference in October 2005 to feature some of the research results; (v) Ongoing networking and collaboration to develop and sustain on-going scientific studies of diverse spiritual and religious phenomena.

Although there is wide acknowledgement that spiritual transformations occur and that they can have profound effects on the life of a person, group or society, there have been few integrated scientific studies conducted that account for the nature of the various biological, psychosocial, and cultural conditions and factors that underlie spiritual transformations. The Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program seeks to fill this important gap in our knowledge by rigorously investigating various aspects of the sociocultural, psychological and neurological factors that underlie spiritual transformations of individuals and groups. The research conference and the ten funded projects will help to advance an interdisciplinary field in the human sciences for researching spiritual and religious phenomena using cutting edge methodologies and experimental designs.

We are looking for the enthusiastic involvement of scientists and scholars from around the world who want to advance the cause of interdisciplinary research on the nature of spiritual transformation. Applicants from anthropology, sociology, psychology, psychiatry, pharmacology, neurology, biology, neuroscience, and religious studies are encouraged to apply. We also recommend, where possible, that researchers and religionists seek to collaborate on research under this announcement. We want to attract distinguished and emerging researchers who are experimenting with creative new methodologies and techniques for examining human expression and experience. Studies of diverse religious traditions and practices under the rubric of "spiritual transformation" are welcome.

The Principal Investigator of the Spiritual Transformation Research Program is Solomon H Katz, president of the Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science and director of the Krogman Center for Research in Child Growth and Development at the University of Pennsylvania. Collaborators in the study include David Hufford, director of the Doctors Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine, and Byron Johnson, director and distinguished senior fellow at the Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania. Advisory board members and consultants include:

Edward F. Foulks, Tulane University
Philip Hefner, Zygon Center for Religion and Science
Joan D. Koss-Chioino, Arizona State University
Kenneth Pargament, Bowling Green State University
Lawrence E. Sullivan, Harvard University
Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University

You can learn more about the Spiritual Transformation Research Program by Visiting http://www.spiritualtransformationresearch.org. In order to apply for this grant, you must submit a letter of intent no later than June 1, 2002. Forty prospective principal investigators will then be selected to attend a private research conference October 5-7, 2002 in Philadelphia. Full grant applications will then be invited for a total of $1.6 million in research funds. For guidelines and more information, visit or contact Christopher Stawski, Program Associate at stawski@metanexus.net

The Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science http://www.metanexus.net is dedicated to research, education, and outreach on the constructive engagement of science and religion.

The Spiritual Transformation Research Program is made possible by special funding from the John Templeton Foundation http://www.templeton.org/ and the support of individual and institutional donors.


Katz, S. H. (2002). The Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program [letter to the editor]. Human Nature Review. 2: 179-182.

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