Approaching Religion <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> The Donner Institute en-US Approaching Religion 1799-3121 <p>The license of the published metadata is Creative Commons CCO 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)</p> Seekers of the spiritual art and higher wisdom <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> Nina Kokkinen Ruth Illman Copyright (c) 2021 Nina Kokkinen, Ruth Illman 2021-03-20 2021-03-20 11 1 1 3 10.30664/ar.103023 Artists as truth-seekers <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> Nina Kokkinen Copyright (c) 2021 Nina Kokkinen 2021-03-20 2021-03-20 11 1 4 27 10.30664/ar.98310 Gendering seekers and upstarts in early twentieth-century Finnish literature <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> Viola Parente-Capkova Copyright (c) 2021 Viola Parente-Capkova 2021-03-20 2021-03-20 11 1 28 44 10.30664/ar.98282 Sigrid af Forselles and ‘The Development of the Human Soul’ <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> Marja Lahelma Copyright (c) 2021 Marja Lahelma 2021-03-20 2021-03-20 11 1 45–62 45–62 10.30664/ar.98058 ‘Mirages and visions in the air’ <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> Per Faxneld Copyright (c) 2021 Per Faxneld 2021-03-20 2021-03-20 11 1 63 76 10.30664/ar.98199 Architectural visions <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> Kaisa Broner Copyright (c) 2021 Kaisa Broner 2021-03-20 2021-03-20 11 1 77 97 10.30664/ar.98060 Decadence and occulture <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> Mikko Välimäki Copyright (c) 2021 Mikko Välimäki 2021-03-20 2021-03-20 11 1 98–116 98–116 10.30664/ar.98066 Dance as a contemplative practice <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> Laura Hellsten Copyright (c) 2021 Laura Hellsten 2021-03-20 2021-03-20 11 1 117 34 10.30664/ar.98065 Religious and spiritual motifs in the art of the patients of Nikkilä Hospital <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> Sari Kuuva Copyright (c) 2021 Sari Kuuva 2021-03-20 2021-03-20 11 1 135 55 10.30664/ar.98057 Opening minds for the wisdom of art <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> Maarit Leskelä-Kärki Copyright (c) 2021 Maarit Leskelä-Kärki 2021-03-20 2021-03-20 11 1 184 7 10.30664/ar.103028 Crystals and skulls at Villa Gyllenberg <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> Camilla Granbacka Copyright (c) 2021 Camilla Granbacka 2021-03-20 2021-03-20 11 1 188 93 10.30664/ar.101486 The painter Meri Genetz and the endless quest for spiritual wisdom <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> Sanna Ryynänen Copyright (c) 2021 Sanna Ryynänen 2021-03-20 2021-03-20 11 1 156 73 10.30664/ar.100545 Tyra Kleen <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> Karin Ström Lehander Copyright (c) 2021 Karin Ström Lehander 2021-03-21 2021-03-21 11 1 174 83 10.30664/ar.100479 Spiritual treasures in Finnish art <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> Hedvig Martin Copyright (c) 2021 Hedvig Martin 2021-03-20 2021-03-20 11 1 194 6 10.30664/ar.99492 Esoteric and occult Sweden <p>Review of Per Faxneld's <em>Det ockulta sekelskiftet. Esoteriska strömningar i Hilma af Klints tid</em> (Stockholm: Volante, 2020).</p> Tiina Mahlamäki Copyright (c) 2021 Tiina Mahlamäki 2021-03-20 2021-03-20 11 1 197 200 10.30664/ar.102464 Glastonbury Holy Thorn <p>Review of Adam Stout's <em>Glastonbury Holy Thorn: Story of a Legend</em> (Glastonbury: Green &amp; Pleasant Publishing, 2020).</p> Tiina Sepp Copyright (c) 2021 Tiina Sepp 2021-03-20 2021-03-20 11 1 201 3 10.30664/ar.102230