Approaching Religion 2021-03-22T16:09:25+02:00 Donner Institute Open Journal Systems <p><em>Approaching Religion</em> is an academic open access journal published by the Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History in Åbo, Finland.</p> Seekers of the spiritual art and higher wisdom 2021-03-22T16:09:21+02:00 Nina Kokkinen Ruth Illman <p>Editorial of <span lang="EN-GB"><em>Approaching Religion</em>, Vol. 11 Issue 1,&nbsp;&nbsp;based on a two-day seminar arranged in Helsinki in August 2020 by the Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation under the title ‘Clear-sighted Art – Open Mind? Encounters between Art and Esotericism’.</span></p> 2021-03-20T00:00:00+02:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Nina Kokkinen, Ruth Illman Artists as truth-seekers 2021-03-22T16:09:23+02:00 Nina Kokkinen <p class="p1">This article focuses on the concept of the <em>seeker</em> and considers how the analytical tool of seekership, defined and developed in the sociology of religion, could be applied to the study of art and esotericism. The theoretical argument is made more tangible with the example of the Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865–1931), whose life story, art and writings resonate with the concept of seekership. The ways in which Gallen-Kallela writes about his interest in esotericism and the dawn of the new age appear in a new light; as part of the processes of a spiritualisation of modern art and religiosity. In addition, the article points out that the concept of <em>seekership</em> can offer new possibilities more generally for the study of art and esotericism. Utilising the analytical tool of seekership may be especially helpful regarding those artists who did not subscribe to any esoteric movement or doctrine, but stressed a more individual relationship with the <em>occulture </em>of their time. It will also provide an opportunity to outline how the connections between art and esotericism have changed over different times and places.</p> 2021-03-20T00:00:00+02:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Nina Kokkinen Gendering seekers and upstarts in early twentieth-century Finnish literature 2021-03-22T16:09:23+02:00 Viola Parente-Capkova <p class="p1">The search for truth and spirituality, intertwined with the search for one’s self, has been a perennial theme in arts and literature. In some works of Finnish literature at the turn of the twentieth century, the figure of a person seeking for spiritual fulfilment tended to intertwine with that of the upstart (<em>nousukas</em> in Finnish). At first sight, it might seem odd that these two figures should overlap in literary works, but as I show, especially in early twentieth-century Finnish literature, such cases are not rare, given the wide range of meanings that the word nousukas would denote.</p> 2021-03-20T00:00:00+02:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Viola Parente-Capkova Sigrid af Forselles and ‘The Development of the Human Soul’ 2021-03-22T16:09:25+02:00 Marja Lahelma <p class="p1">The five-part relief series <em>The Development of the Human Soul</em> (<em>c.</em>1887–1903) by the Finnish sculptor Sigrid af Forselles is a monumental work consisting of five large plaster reliefs. The artist’s esoteric interests have been noted in previous research, but their impact on her art has not been properly analysed. The first part of the relief series, which has for its subject a theme from Scandinavian mythology, belongs to the collections of the Finnish National Gallery, while the other parts, with seemingly Christian content, are situated in the Kallio Church in Helsinki. The separation of the parts and the apparent inconsistency in the thematic structure of the series has caused confusion among those who have attempted to interpret it as a whole, although occasionally a possible Ttheosophical inspiration has been suggested. This article presents the first attempt at a more profound, esoteric interpretation of the series, arguing that its main theme is a spiritual evolution that attaches itself to the idea of progress and liberation through art. The narrative evolves from materiality and physical strength towards spirituality and immateriality.</p> 2021-03-20T00:00:00+02:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Marja Lahelma ‘Mirages and visions in the air’ 2021-03-22T16:09:24+02:00 Per Faxneld <p class="p1">Around the year 1900, European discourse on art was becoming increasingly ‘esotericized’. The 1890s saw esoteric art salons create a sensation in Paris, and art critics and theorists painted a picture of the true artist and the esotericist as overlapping figures. There was also at the time a conflict regarding mediumistic art, a phenomenon initially made popular through Spiritualist mediums. This debate, as we shall see, had interesting gendered dimensions. In what follows, I will discuss how the Swedish female esotericist and artist Tyra Kleen (1874–1951) attempted to situate herself in connection to the concept of the artist as a <em>magus</em>, and the tensions between the positive view of mediumism in Spiritualism and the more negative or cautious approach to it in Theosophy, as well as in relation to the attendant gender issues.</p> 2021-03-20T00:00:00+02:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Per Faxneld Architectural visions 2021-03-22T16:09:25+02:00 Kaisa Broner <p class="p1">In this article I examine the architecture and architectural thinking of Finnish Academician Reima Pietilä (1923–93) in relation to his design methodology. Pietilä was an architect with an original, creative, artistic personality, who set out early in his career to develop the form language, and theory of modern architecture, moving it towards an organic expressionism. Finnish nature mysticism was a source of inspiration for him, and ‘nature architecture’ one of his key concepts.</p> 2021-03-20T00:00:00+02:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Kaisa Broner Decadence and occulture 2021-03-22T16:09:24+02:00 Mikko Välimäki <p class="p1">This article contributes to the understanding of relations between occulture and Decadence in Finnish art at the turn of the twentieth century, focussing on occulture and Decadence in the works of the Finnish artist Oscar Parviainen (1880–1938). The aim is to understand what are the relations between Parviainen's art, the Decadent art movement and occulture, and what are the aspects and cultural phenomena of his time that share similar lines of thought as Parviainen? In which ways did Parviainen address questions of higher truths about human existence, and what kind of role did they play in his thinking?</p> 2021-03-20T00:00:00+02:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Mikko Välimäki Dance as a contemplative practice 2021-03-22T16:09:24+02:00 Laura Hellsten <p class="p1">This article analyses ethnographic material gathered in Sweden amongst dancers in the Church of Sweden. With the help of the writings of Sarah Coakley and Simone Weil I explore if, and how, dancing could be considered a contemplative practice in the Christian traditions of the Latin West.</p> 2021-03-20T00:00:00+02:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Laura Hellsten Religious and spiritual motifs in the art of the patients of Nikkilä Hospital 2021-03-22T16:09:25+02:00 Sari Kuuva <p class="p1">This article focuses on religiousness and spirituality in the art works of psychiatric patients of Nikkilä Hospital, Finland. The pictures analysed here belong to a collection held at the Helsinki City Museum and they were made during the twentieth century. The theoretical frame of the study is a cultural study of mental health. The collection is approached as presenting a specific kind of imagery which has connections not only to the personal history and diagnoses of the patients; their cultural context and hospital environment is also taken into account. The religiousness and spirituality of the Nikkilä collection are also compared with outsider art and examples of art history internationally.</p> 2021-03-20T00:00:00+02:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Sari Kuuva Opening minds for the wisdom of art 2021-03-22T16:09:21+02:00 Maarit Leskelä-Kärki <p class="p1">A&nbsp;reflection on the symposium ‘Clear-sighted Art – Open Mind? Encounters between Art and Esotericism’ arranged at the Amos Rex Art Museum, Helsinki, 25th August 2020.</p> 2021-03-20T00:00:00+02:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Maarit Leskelä-Kärki Crystals and skulls at Villa Gyllenberg 2021-03-22T16:09:22+02:00 Camilla Granbacka <p>Review of <em>The Path to Hidden Knowledge</em>, art exhibition curated by Nina Kokkinen, 3.6.–11.10.2020 at Villa Gyllenberg, Helsinki.</p> 2021-03-20T00:00:00+02:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Camilla Granbacka The painter Meri Genetz and the endless quest for spiritual wisdom 2021-03-22T16:09:22+02:00 Sanna Ryynänen <p class="p1">Meri Genetz (1885–1943) was a Finnish painter, esotericist, and a spiritual seeker. Around 1925, she began truly dedicating herself to spiritual seeking and started to make notes of her studies in black notebooks. This article will go through four of those notebooks which today offer a vivid picture of Genetz’s seeking between the years 1925 and 1943. In the beginning, Genetz acquainted herself with Gnosticism, Theosophy, and Kabbalah, as well as the works of Christian mystics, such as Emanuel Swedenborg and Jakob Böhme, the writings of, for example, Paracelsus, and texts attributed to the mythic figure Hermes Trismegistus. Gradually Genetz started to outline her own views, ideas, and theories regarding higher truth and spiritual wisdom. In the beginning of the 1930s her main quest came to be to find her ‘other half’ and become whole. She started attending Spiritualist séances, where she would ask about her other half and discuss the state of her soul, the souls of others, her art and marriage, and the books she had read. In time, Genetz’s quest for true wisdom and self-fulfilment became more and more restless and impatient. When she died in 1943, she was still seeking.</p> 2021-03-20T00:00:00+02:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Sanna Ryynänen Tyra Kleen 2021-03-22T16:09:20+02:00 Karin Ström Lehander <p class="p1">The Swedish artist and writer Tyra Kleen (1874–1951) was a professional artist and a constant traveller who had a great interest in different religious questions. This article describes her Symbolist artistry, her interest in Theosophy and her journeys to India and Asia.</p> 2021-03-21T00:00:00+02:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Karin Ström Lehander Spiritual treasures in Finnish art 2021-03-22T16:09:23+02:00 Hedvig Martin <p>Review of <em>Spiritual Treasures: Esotericism in the Finnish Art World 1890–1950</em>, edited by Nina Kokkinen and Lotta Nylund (Helsinki: Parvs, 2020).</p> 2021-03-20T00:00:00+02:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Hedvig Martin Esoteric and occult Sweden 2021-03-22T16:09:21+02:00 Tiina Mahlamäki <p>Review of Per Faxneld's <em>Det ockulta sekelskiftet. Esoteriska strömningar i Hilma af Klints tid</em> (Stockholm: Volante, 2020).</p> 2021-03-20T00:00:00+02:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Tiina Mahlamäki Glastonbury Holy Thorn 2021-03-22T16:09:22+02:00 Tiina Sepp <p>Review of Adam Stout's <em>Glastonbury Holy Thorn: Story of a Legend</em> (Glastonbury: Green &amp; Pleasant Publishing, 2020).</p> 2021-03-20T00:00:00+02:00 Copyright (c) 2021 Tiina Sepp