Léon van Gulik

Léon van Gulik
Leiden University | LEI · Leiden University Centre for Religion

PhD (Cultural Psychology - Tilburg University)

About

12
Publications
4,094
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Citations
Introduction
INTERESTS Aesthetic experiences, mysticism, meaning-making, creativity, rituality, magical thinking, cultural dynamics, ecological thinking, identity construction METHODS Interviews, participatory observation, grounded theory, content analysis; also trained in surveys, experimental designs and structured observation CURRENT ACTIVITIES Religious self-legitimation (project), human atmospheres (project), folk metal (chapter), refiguring evolutionary thinking and cultural psychology (articles).
Additional affiliations
February 2019 - July 2019
Leiden University
Position
  • Professor (Assistant)
February 2011 - May 2017
Tilburg University
Position
  • PhD Student
Education
September 2001 - August 2006
Radboud University
Field of study
  • Cultural Psychology
September 1996 - August 2001
Radboud University
Field of study
  • Psychology

Publications

Publications (12)
Article
Full-text available
In this article, I explore how a contemporary religion affects the self-understanding of its adherents and may contribute to the construction of their personal identity, by examining the Wiccan practice of adopting a “Craft name.” All people tell stories to maintain a coherent personal history, and stories about their names help create a sense of i...
Book
Full-text available
Religion has evolved. In this day and age, rather than merely trying to comprehend their lives as part of the 'grand scheme of things,' many believers now employ religious myth and symbolism for self-expression and identity construction. Adherents keep generating new forms of ritual and are motivated to continually reimagine the divine order. They...
Article
Full-text available
Drawing on a theoretical sample from my ongoing fieldwork on religious creativity, I offer a psychological perspective on the issue of secrecy in contemporary initiatory Wicca. Secrecy is understood here to exist in those relationships where a supposed inequality of knowledge is actively maintained by managing access to the surplus of that knowledg...
Chapter
Full-text available
Wicca evolves—and so does the scholarship on this movement. Studies of its history and its myriad manifestations may be complemented by social scientific approaches that explain its inner workings and the impact of the sociocultural context. In this day and age, for instance, rather than merely trying to comprehend their lives in the ‘grand scheme...
Book
Full-text available
Al bijna veertig jaar is Leren communiceren het meest gebruikte communicatiehandboek in het hoger onderwijs. Of het nu gaat om communicatieonderwijs in afzonderlijke cursussen of om vaardighedentrainingen die zijn geïntegreerd in projecten, stages en opdrachten, Leren Communiceren is de communicatieleidraad bij uitstek.
Chapter
Full-text available
Greencraft represents a particularly interesting case with regard to the development and diversification of Wicca on the European continent. Although the network of covens draws from Celtic mythology and its literary embellishments and hence maintains a close connection to the British Isles, Greencraft also seeks to explore the believed universal r...
Article
Full-text available
This article offers an ethnography of a tree walk ritual of the Belgian Greencraft Wicca movement. The description is employed to discuss the notions of reflexivity, reactivity, and the double hermeneutic. By interpreting the data, the author concludes that the double hermeneutic is a problem of different contexts rather than between different grou...
Article
Full-text available
In this paper I will focus on the problem of the self-validation of belief as a typical mode of making sense of alleged encounters with the divine in a ritual context. Drawing on examples taken from semi-structured interviews with Dutch Pagans, I will touch upon motives of self-actualisation and aesthetic appraisal in the process of interpreting th...
Chapter
Full-text available
Sometimes referred to as open source religions, contemporary Paganisms are under continuous construction. In this paper, I will discuss, from a psychological perspective, the relation between creativity and Pagan ritual practice through notions like novelty, improvisation, and non-intentionality. By elaborating on the plumber/diviner dichotomy in t...
Article
Full-text available
Post-modern nature religions face the challenge of justifying their practices and theology since there is no unbroken line between the classic and contemporary Paganisms of the Western world. Against the background of progressing historical knowledge, these religions constantly have to reinvent or reconstruct their traditions. At the same time, the...
Article
Full-text available
Dromen spreken vaak tot ons in een zeer persoonlijke symboliek, zo lijkt het. De psychoanalytische veronderstelling dat de symb oliek in dromen een censurerende rol vervult, betwijfel ik, omdat het mij altijd is voorgekomen dat de symboliek juist een intensivering oplevert van datgene waarnaar ze verwijst. Als het dan zo is, dat er gebruik wordt ge...
Article
Full-text available
Amidst the many exotic mantic techniques, that are fashionable today, like the tarot, I Ching, and astrology, the runic oracle is, as part of our European cultural heritage, very popular. As with many others, if not all techniques of divination, C.G. Jung’s principle of synchronicity is being called upon as a justification for the use of the runic...

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Projects

Projects (3)
Archived project
Phenomena like religious dynamics and change are worthwhile subjects for scholarly enquiry—all the more because thinking them through in terms of religious creativity has only just begun to have an impact on the field of religious studies. This observation also suggests that the practices of new religious movements—or at least contemporary reinterpretations of traditional faiths—ought to be given more attention. Precisely because of its emphasis on the individual and its complex entanglements with other religions and its ceremonial proclivities, Wicca represents a suitable showcase to illustrate the complexities of processes of religious creativity and change, the subject of this study. Incidentally, an enquiry into religion as a process and as having subjective—i.e., experiential—qualities would be very timely: the topic fits the approach of ‘lived religion’ that has become dominant recently. Aiming to understand the human factor in nascent religiosity requires the combination of contextual sensitivity with explanatory ambition. Such interdisciplinarity, however, is delicate, because it hangs in the balance between two potentially conflicting approaches. While the ‘ethnographic’ approach offers a detailed overview of particular cultural phenomena, it may stall at the descriptive level, incessantly accumulating uninterpreted facts and cataloguing cabinets of curiosities. Conversely, ‘cognitivist’ approaches, while advancing to explanatory accounts of religiosity, have done so at the expense of detail and contextualized understandings. A balanced, best-of-both-worlds interdisciplinary undertaking, then, needs to explicate the complementary elements of the moderate positions of both approaches. Religious creativity, as well as religious change, involves continuous alternations between subjective and objective worlds, between representations and presentations, and between ideas and their expressions. To study these, we need to emphasize dynamics, rather than diversity, yet retain a functional universalism by drawing attention to the patterned regularities of the interactions between these internal and external worlds. Therefore, as a discipline about the finding, making, and dispersal of meaning, it is high time for cultural psychology to claim its rightful place amongst the fields that make up the interdisciplinary undertaking of religious studies.
Project
Psychology only deals with the content and function of thought and conception, but hardly ever considers their experiential qualities. Qualia, a term from the cognitive sciences, referring to the ‘what’s-it-like’ feeling of having a mental state, seems useful but is often restricted to sensory impressions. In this project, I will introduce the concept of human atmospheres, as the implicitly experienced background qualities that co-occur with our encounters with people, objects, and situations. Atmospheres, as I understand them, can be linked to both time and space. With regard to time, we may talk about the spirit of the age—i.e., a gestalt made up from the felt specifics of a certain time, such as ideas expressed in art, socio-political structures or ultimate concerns, the implications of technology of the day, and major events. The feelings and moods thus invoked, however, rely on collective episodic memory, and are prone to be constructed only after the era to which they point has ended. Time-related atmospheres then, seem to be the atmospheres we feel when pondering a specific part of history, either with or without the aid of props. Examples are the world war II era, die Wende, or the oppressive atmosphere that permeated the 19th-century fin-the-siècle, but also the peculiar feeling that comes with the festive season. When related to space, atmospheres may be the felt properties of cities, buildings, and even rooms. Strong positive attachments to particular places are referred to as topophilia. The intensity of place attachment, in turn, might be caused by its inherent awe-inspiring character, such as the grand gothic cathedrals of the catholic world. Fundamental relationships with particular places, however, may also emerge from the events that take place there. These links may be accidental, e.g., the location of one’s first encountered the love of his life, or intended, such as with hospitals, board rooms and lecture halls. In everyday language, the particularities of collective place-person relationships are sometimes referred to as ‘the spirit of place,’ which has an interesting origin in the Latin concept of the genius loci. The notion originally refers to supernatural agents that have been designated to rule over a place, as is traditionally done, but, naturalistically, may also suit as designatory of the emergent property of placeness, i.e., a personification of what sets apart a specific locality from other places.
Project
Leonard van 't Hul and I have made a large sample of Wiccan and neo-Pagan related magazines from the 70s tot the 00s, digitized these, and are analyzing them to answer various questions pertaining to the changing narratives and strategies of self-legitimation of Wicca. Both the topic and the methodological approach would be meaningful additions to the corpus of religious studies. First, self-legitimation, looked at from both an individual and collective perspective, requires the inclusion of a psychological perspective, now often lacking, and would help to connect it with the sociology of religion. Second, self-legitimation is a fruitful concept to understand tensions between insiders and outsiders, apart from supporting the claim the religion should be addressed from a dynamical perspective, i.e., as a changing entity. Third, the analysis of magazine articles is a methodological showcase how to make sense of religious change at a grassroots level using a non-invasive, yet valid method. In addition, it further develops a social scientific perspective to the literature in religious studies.