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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: July 7, 2003
Volume 38, Number 23

Professor studies spiritual transformation phenomena

By Steve Carr

Harold Delaney, UNM psychology professor, received a two-year, $150,000 research grant from the Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science for his studies on “Antecedents of Transformation: Spiritual Formation.”

Delaney is one of 24 recipients of the first research grants awarded for scientific studies on the phenomena of spiritual transformation through the Metanexus Institute’s ground-breaking Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program. The distinguished researchers, from many disciplines at leading educational institutions in the United States and other countries, will be conducting the first multidisciplinary scientific investigations of this kind.

The announcement was made by Dr. Solomon Katz, president of the Philadelphia, Pa., based Metanexus Institute and principal investigator for the Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program.

Delaney’s study will concentrate on “the oft-neglected topic of spiritual well-being.” It will be the first prospective study of dramatic, lasting “quantum changes” in individuals’ lives, as well as an investigation of gradual spiritual change.

“Antecedents of spiritual transformation will be investigated during the college years, a critical formative period during which faith is often shaken or solidified, and lifetime patterns of character and spiritual disciplines are set,” Delaney said. “We argue that spiritual transformation may be conceptualized as a maturing of spiritual character in terms of faith, hope and agape.”

The Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program seeks to understand the phenomena of spiritual transformation and how it occurs, both through secular and religious experiences. The innovative multi-million dollar Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program was launched in the fall of 2001 with the support of the John Templeton Foundation.

Throughout history and in our own time, humans have had profound experiences with a spiritual dimension of reality.  Individuals testify that their lives are no longer the same in the aftermath of these experiences, that they have been “transformed.”  Independent observers often bear witness to these changes as well. Through these research projects on spiritual transformation, scientists and scholars hope to better understand these dramatic changes in people’s beliefs and behaviors, says Delaney.

Grant recipients were chosen from a pool of 470 applicants from 22 nations representing many top research institutions internationally. The recipients were selected from among 60 finalists.

“Through these studies, we have an opportunity to create a new field of inquiry, freed from the prejudices of the past, to examine diverse religious and spiritual phenomena with scientific rigor,” said Katz. “It is a very exciting program, with the potential for many new insights and practical applications.”

Additional information is available on-line at www.spiritualtransformationresearch.org.