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TitleA Study of the Art of Living Foundation - Munin - Universitetet i Tromsø
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Page 78


in the state church does not necessarily mean having Christian beliefs. Interestingly,

however, several of the respondents reported that they were raised as ‗Spiritual.‘ That

can mean many things: 10.2 % of the Norwegian respondents were raised in Art of

Living and 3.1 % pagan – but most of those self-referring as spiritual have chosen the

option ‗Other‘ – 10.2 %. Further, we can note that few of the Norwegian AoL members

were raised in Asian religions – only 13.3 % report being raised Hindu, Buddhist or

Muslim. Thus, the Norwegian respondents seem to have a spiritual outlook on life, but

are not necessarily Christians – or at least not very into organized religion. What seems

to appeal to respondents are ideas that are Indian in origin, but that are also an integral

part of New Age practice/philosophy.

First, 47.9% Norwegian respondents believe in reincarnation, and 36.5% in the

conscious survival of the soul/self in some other realm. It is difficult to judge whether

this high frequency of belief in reincarnation is a consequence of AoL membership, or

whether it was part of a wider New Age belief that respondents held prior to their AoL

involvement. In support of the latter interpretation, Botvar (2011) reports that the

frequency of belief in reincarnation among people who can be categorized as ‗New

Age‘ is much higher than among non-alternative people.

Secondly, it is interesting to examine statistics on Norwegian respondents‘ views

on, for example astrology. Thirty-nine and a half percent report that they have found

astrology helpful (some of the other alternatives in this category were Tarot, 16.3%;

palmistry, 10.5 %; and psychic readings, 18.6 %). These relatively high numbers

support the notion of general background in New Age thinking among Norwegian AoL


Although there seem to be many similarities between Indian and Norwegian

respondents, they differ in other respects – for example, with respect to guru veneration.

As noted above, answers to open-ended questionnaire items from Indian respondents

were extremely positive towards Ravi Shankar. Also, in the ashram (especially at the

point when I was there, and when the guru also was in attendance), the whole

atmosphere felt loaded with his presence; his figure seemed central to most activity at

the ashram. However, for the Norwegian respondents, feelings for the guru were

different. In particularly, the importance of devotion to the guru seems significantly

cycle rituals is quite low – in the same survey 43 % report that they never visit the church, 42 % visit

rarely, only 8 % visit a few times a year and 7% monthly.

Page 155


Concluding Remarks

Lewis states in his OCS paper that he was intrigued by, on the one hand, how much

earlier research continued to be applicable to the understanding of a present-day group

like the Order of Christ/Sophia, and, on the other hand by ―the marked inapplicability of

other generalizations derived from studies of the youth-oriented new religions of the

sixties and seventies‖ (2006: 101). To summarize, I have similar feelings about Art of

Living. The youth crisis model seems, overall, non-applicable to the (tentative)

demographic profile of AoL practitioners who instead seemed to be bearers of social,

cultural and economic capital: AoL respondents are, regardless of country, well-

educated and reasonably well off. Regarding sexuality and marriage they are

overwhelmingly heterosexual and, when not unmarried, in traditional heterosexual

marriages or partnerships. There are some marked differences: in the Norwegian

subsample the greater percentage are female and they are more politically active when

contrasted with the Indian subsample. However, regarding SKY, we find similarities.

Although the Norwegian subsample is much older than the Indian, they have practiced

the technique for a similar length of time. Also, both groups of practitioners were

introduced to the AoL movement and to SKY by a network of family or friends.

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