The body in wellbeing spirituality: self, spirit beings and the politics of difference


  • Jay Johnston University of Sydney


Religious movements, Popular, Spirituality, Contentment, Body, Human, Popular culture, Continental philosophy, Theosophy, Mind and body, Spiritualism, Health, Healing, Holistic medicine, Alternative medicine, Esotericism, Feminist theory, New Age movement


New religious movements of the nineteenth century—notably the Theo­sophical Society and Spiritualism—endowed western culture with an energetic concept of the self: that is, with a model of the body that proposed the individual to be constituted by a ‘spiritual’ or subtle substance. This model of the body—the subtle body—was not new to western esoteric traditions, however, its presentation at this time melded with subtle body schemes from Hindu traditions (primarily Yoga traditions) and provided the groundwork for the popularisation of a concept of the body and self as being comprised of an energetic anatomy. This model of the self has continued unabated into contemporary consumer culture and underpins the vast majority of mind–body concepts in Complementary and Alternative Medical (CAM) practices. This article is concerned with the subtle body models currently found in Wellbeing Spirituality healing modalities. In particular, it considers their ontological and metaphysical propositions with regard to an ethics of difference: both energetic and cultural. Therefore, two distinct types of discourse will be examined and discussed: that of popular culture and that of Continental philosophy (especially feminist and poststructural). Both provide methods for understanding the enduring popularity of subtle body concepts of the self and the challenging ethical relations that the model presupposes.



How to Cite

Johnston, J. (2011). The body in wellbeing spirituality: self, spirit beings and the politics of difference. Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis, 23, 174–185.