Udalosť a miesto konania: Workshop v Bratislave na FSEV UK

Dátum Workshopu: 23.-24. marec 2023

Názov projektu: „Assessing the study of religious change in Central-Eastern Europe”: New fields in the study of religious change in Central-Eastern Europe

Viac informácií o projekte

Na internetovej stránke Karlovej univerzity (Fakulta sociálnych vied) je dostupných viacero dôležitých informácií o Projekte, vďaka ktorému sa na Fakulte sociálnych a ekonomických vied v Bratislave (Univerzita Komenského) v dňoch 23.-24. 3. 2023 konal zaujímavý a obohacujúci, hybridný Workshop. Počas týchto dvoch dní sa medzi juniorskými a seniorskými výskumníkmi a výskumníčkami diskutovalo o náboženstve a spiritualite, ako aj o náboženských zmenách a procesoch v krajinách V4. Okrem skúsených výskumníkov (Peter Maňo, Adam Viskup) tak dostali priestor na prezentáciu dosiaľ získaných dát aj viacerí študenti a študentky z rôznych univerzít V4 (Andjela Djuric, Lais T. Mendes a ďalší, ktorých prezentácie možno nájsť nižšie). Kompletný program možno nájsť na webstránke SASA.

Hlavnou prioritou organizátorov a organizátoriek Workshopu bola snaha o vytvorenie bezpečného priestoru, kde by sa aj mladí výskumníci a výskumníčky mohli stretnúť s ich záujmom a konštruktívnou spätnou väzbou, či potenciálnymi návrhmi na zlepšenie do budúcna, čím by mohli posilniť ich skúsenosti a záujem o daný študijný odbor. Jednalo sa o jednu z troch hlavných plánovaných udalostí projektu „Assessing the study of religious change in Central-Eastern Europe”: New fields in the study of religious change in Central-Eastern Europe, ďalšou bola napr. Konferencia v Prahe. Primárne ciele projektu asi najvýstižnejšie zhŕňa na svojej webstránke Karlova univerzita: „posilniť spoluprácu medzi vedcami v oblasti náboženstva v [krajinách] V4, zviditeľniť aktuálny výskum v tejto oblasti štúdií a podporiť sociálny dialóg o náboženských zmenách v [daných] regiónoch“.


This paper discusses the origins as well as the development of the Taisen Deshimaru lineage of Sōtō Zen Buddhism in Europe. The underlying qualitative research is dedicated to the Sando Kaisen sangha, a community that extends over Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, and Russia. In order to explain this diffusion of the Japanese branch of Buddhism which occurend in the Central-Eastern European region mainly over the course of the 1990s, this paper explores and proposes a theory of the so called ‘narrative compatibility’ as a pre-condition to religious and cultural diffusion. The observed common narrative patterns shared by the new religious element and the receiving side, can be understood as a direct pre-requisit that allowed the process of acculturation of Zen and explain thusly the raise in interest in Buddhism and number of followers in the ‘post-socialist’ countries. Following the fall of the communist regime it is perhaps the thirst for spiritual guidance saturated by the reminder of ideas of orentalism, as well as the newfound freedom comparable to the notions of libertarian movements of the 1960s and 1970s that contribute essentially to a search for an alternative to Christianity and support the acceptance of the representation of Zen Buddhism. While drawing a comparison to smaller communities of the Deshimaru lineage in Germany, the research is also tracing the roots of the narrative all the way back to the monastery Antai-ji in Japan. Several documented accultured versions of buddhist teachings and rituals as well as ceremonial practice provide a unique probe into European Zen.

This presentation tackles the connections between new religious movements and changes in conservative and right-wing thinking in Hungary since the end of the socialist regime. I will focus on the role of Buddhism in Hungary, notably on a denomination which became a breeding ground for right-wing ideologies supported by spiritual arguments, before and shortly after the democratic transition. Although these right-wing ideas have been partially eclipsed by the influx of New Age ideas imported from the “West”, some of their elements are still dominant in what I call the Hungarian “spiritual field”. The leader of this group, which describes itself as “traditionalist”, ultra-conservative and extreme right-wing, is an assumed follower of the fascist philosopher Julius Evola whose ideas can still be found in the thinking of some spiritual (mainly Hindu/yoga and Buddhist) communities.

The influence of the “traditionalists” is still present in ideas maintaining that „ancient civilizations“ would be more valuable than modern “Western” culture, because “natural hierarchy” and “spiritual order” governed “ancient times”. In their view, the more this order is preserved by a culture in the modern world, the more it should be valued (e.g. Buddhist communities often highlight Bhutan as a “Dharmic” kingdom). Also, Hungarians are considered here as being related to “Eastern” cultures presented as more “traditional” and misunderstood by the “West”.

Relying on ethnographic data gathered in different spiritual communities and a brief overview of their origins, I will attempt to shed light on how they relate to the shifts in extreme right-wing ideologies, i.e. their remnants, their disappearance and/or transformation.

Church of Scientology is widely researched and publicly know New Religious Movement of the 20th-21st Century. It entered Central East Europe first in Hungary shortly before the fall of the Iron Curtain. Due to the very progressive Church Act in the newly reborn democratic Hungarian Republic (Act IV. of 1990) traditional religious communities and new religious movements alike were able to register as churches with similar privileges. The Church of Scientology was registered officially on 17 July, 1991 in Hungary, first among the countries of the post-socialist bloc. Although it is now present also in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine and Croatia, Hungary is the only country of the region with a so-called Ideal Org, a level of organization which is entitled to train Ministers and religious practitioners (called auditors). This makes Hungary the hub of Scientology activities in CEE.

The first monography by Hungarian scholars was published in 2011 by Andras Máté-Tóth and Gábor Dániel Nagy, two distinguished researchers of the Szeged University Department of Religious Studies. The book amalgamated a wide range of research methods from qualitative and quantitative approaches to historic overview and press analysis. As a conclusion the authors classified Scientology as a “alternative religion” with the remark that at its early years Christianity could also be considered an alternative religion in the ancient Rome.

A decade later Scientology is again in the focus of researchers, just this case in the form of a collection of studies from different scholars of many universities and disciplines. It also contains a historic overview, shows Scientology’s legal and press environment, reception and skirmishes, includes a substantial and functional analysis, quantitative and qualitative research data and for the first time a comparative hermeneutic analysis.

The paper introduces the project and its initial findings and conclusions.


In 2011 András Máté-Tóth and Gábor Dániel Nagy published the very first Hungarian study collection about the Hungarian Church of Scientology, titled „Alternative religion – Scientology in Hungary„. Their contributions and statements defined the early paradigms of the field of new religions studies and the research of alternative religiosity in Hungary. A little more than a decade later, this collection is still one of the most reliable and objective sources for inspecting the new religious movement’s presence and activity in the country.

My contribution aims to revisit some of the authors‘ original questions and findings and complement these with a new – initially processed – dataset. Using the results of a survey conducted within the Hungarian Church of Scientology in 2022, I will attempt to outline some of the internal changes and developments within the movement, with a particular focus on religious activity, social attitudes, and changes in internal values. During the presentation, I will discuss the findings within the context of the recorded internal demographical changes. I will also pay close attention to the effects of the developments within the Hungarian social, political, and legal atmosphere over this period. I aim to conclude my lecture by indicating some prospects and perspectives for the movement’s presence and activity in Hungary, while also outlining numerous questions and challenges that are needed to be addressed in the future.

One of the main elements of the Berlin Wall Memorial is the Chapel of Reconciliation. The area on which the Chapel is located is clearly marked in space, which makes an impression that the two parts of the Berlin Wall Monument, the secular and the religious, are clearly separated from each other. In my presentation, I show however how they work together, creating the Berlin Wall Monument as a place where secular and religious influences intertwine or, more exactly, cannot be thought or even exists without one another. In the case of the Berlin Wall Memorial, the initial unwillingness of many actors to mark and memorialise the division of the city and the existence of two parts of Germany was countered by the actions of religious actors, who subsequently accepted a role for religion as an invisible manager and organiser that consistently stays in the background and makes space for secular memorialisation practices. Although religious materiality is decent and covered, merging with its surroundings, is at the same time a driving force behind the day to day operation of the memorial site.


Since its creation in the 1970s by German psychotherapist Bert Hellinger, Family Constellation Work (FCW) has become a widespread alternative therapeutic method. Initially conceived as a means of addressing atrocities of WW2 and the Holocaust, it is nowadays mostly intended to repair conflicts within the nuclear and/or extended family through ritualized group activities. In the frame of workshops led by “facilitators”, participants are invited to represent each other’s kin and shed light on how they relate to each other according to specific spatial configurations. Selected participants act as “representatives”, taking on the role of the client’s family members, and the facilitator reorganizes their position in space during the course of the session, which is perceived as the restoration of order in the family system. Although the use of physical space obviously plays a crucial role in this practice, due to the COVID-19 pandemic it had to be transposed to virtual space. During my fieldwork among therapists-in-training in educational gestalt groups, which coincided with the pandemic, I was able to observe that this forceful transition did not affect the effectiveness of family constellation work. Relying on the ethnographic data I have gathered during different online workshops conducted by a renown Serbian facilitator, I will explore how, despite necessary adaptations, the practice retained its expected reparative outcomes. In the absence of physical space, words are the only means left in this online context. I propose to examine the use of what practitioners call “healing sentences”. Since these utterances seem to replace movement in space and verbally re-organize relationships, my aim is to reflect upon the question whether they can be considered as a ritual use of language.


This work focuses on how members of the researched community – which practice alternative spirituality – live and think, for example in the field of health and environmentalism. The research was conducted in Liptov (Tatra Mountains). Qualitative data were obtained from people from the community closely connected to this environment. The research sample consisted of 10 people – 5 men and 5 women, who are part of it.

Most informants prefer alternative forms of medicine, such as Ayurveda, and rather reject prevailing biomedical health system associated with the pharmaceutical industry. This approach of theirs was also manifested during the coronavirus pandemic, when most of them refused to be vaccinated and preferred to build their own immunity – also through overcoming the given disease. They do not visit doctors often, if at all. If they get sick, in most cases, they look for a deeper, spiritual cause and meaning of their health problems. They prefer natural nutritional supplements, herbs and other forms of prevention.

In the research sample, there is a widespread positive attitude towards environmentalism, which is manifested in the lifestyle of informants – f.e. in the separation of waste, in the collection of garbage from the ground, in the preferences of second-hand shops and, for most women, in the vegetarian or vegan way of eating, which they also associate with the philosophies of Ayurvedic medicine. They perceive the planet as their home, or as a living organism, so they consider their ecological activities a part of their spirituality – also with regard to their spiritual values ​​and goals.



Wicca is one of the fast-growing New Religious Movements (NRM) of the 21st century, although its roots can be traced back to the early 20th century. This article focuses on the analysis of Hungarian LGBTQ+ Wicca practitioners’ practices in the Berkano Tradition, with a special interest in the representative aspects, such as altars and home altars. This element of the material dimension will illustrate how LGBTQ+ practitioners challenge the binary aspects of Wicca and how they utilize the liminal aspects of gender. With guided interviews, this article illustrates and provides a deeper understanding of how the traditional Wicca binarity – of a God and Goddess – is changed according to the given individuals’ sexual orientations and how these individuals innovate their altars, reinterpret the traditional Wicca worldview, and religious practice to create a closer, more personal religious attachment. About gender and sexuality spectrum, the Berkano Tradition and their Wicca beliefs accommodate their identity very well, most of them skew and modify the rituals and praxis in their own way, so that they can be the most comfortable and at ease with their religious belief. My original hypothesis that LGBTQ+ Wiccan use the adjective of Wicca which is a belief that is universalistic yet so individualistic is correct because they use Wicca as a tool of self-expression regardless of their sex, gender, and or sexual identity. They use different kinds of objects for their ritual to accommodate their needs, they also reinvent and reinterpret their Wiccan beliefs for their own good, so that they can be the best version of themselves. This article then closed with a positive statement that Berkano Tradition’s Wicca is a religion that can be modified accordingly to fit within the framework of the given individuals/members.