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Study information

Spirituality - Prayer, Meditation and Worship

Module titleSpirituality - Prayer, Meditation and Worship
Module codeTHE2024
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Brandon Gallaher (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Module description

This module will explore the broad theme of spirituality in world religions. The role of prayer, meditation and worship will be explored within the life, mission and ethical practices of a selection of religious traditions including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. Insights from the human sciences (e.g. psychology) and other academic disciplines will be drawn on when appropriate. Some of the topics that will be covered will be holiness, asceticism, mysticism, the role of symbols, monasticism, the interaction of spirituality and culture, the relationship between spirituality and creativity (especially art) and the interaction of the verbal and the non-verbal in ritual and prayer.

Module aims - intentions of the module

World religions are defined in their shape and identity by their spirituality and the quest for holiness: prayer, meditation and worship as seen in liturgical and sacramental celebration, Scriptural study and recitation, private devotions ranging from lectio divina and guided meditations to formulaic repetitive prayer, ascesis, yoga and sacred dance. This course will:

  • Explore how spiritual practices reveal the beliefs, values and identities of different religions and how they relate to the divine and society
  • Explore the very categories of the ‘spiritual’, ‘holiness’ and the ‘religious’ in their ever shifting historical and conceptual boundaries
  • Drawing on human sciences, look at the social and psychological role of prayer, meditation and ascesis (especially within monastic traditions)
  • Examine art and architecture as part of the intrinsic packaging and context of spiritual practices
  • Understand the role of symbols and verbal and non-verbal languages
  • Look at various historical examples of spirituality in its connection to the visionary and ecstatic within the mystical tradition and in hagiography

Amongst the religions that will be covered in depth, with visiting speakers where available, will be Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. There will be a number of fieldtrips to places of worship and meditation.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate detailed knowledge of more than one world religion
  • 2. Analyse and critique the differing practices of spirituality in more than one world religion
  • 3. Assess the significance of some factors in the social, historical and intellectual context affecting different world religions
  • 4. Demonstrate awareness of the significance and role of spirituality and the quest for holiness in more than one religion
  • 5. Demonstrate critical understanding of the role of prayer, meditation and worship in more than one world religion

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Give fair accounts of the positions of others, based on the detailed analysis of texts and on awareness of historical, intellectual and religious context
  • 7. Use existing knowledge to assess the cogency and coherence of the arguments of others
  • 8. Develop and present a coherent argument with appropriate use of evidence and awareness of a range of alternative views
  • 9. Demonstrate proficiency in some core methods of study: historical analysis, systematic theological and philosophical reasoning and philosophical analysis as applied to different world religions

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Communicate clearly in articulating one?s point of view in written and oral forms
  • 11. Assimilating in a relatively short span complex and detailed arguments and being able to both understand and analyse them but also to communicate this knowledge to others
  • 12. Participating with sympathy and good humour in class discussions

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Theories and constructions of ‘spirituality’, ‘religion’ and ‘holiness’
  • The nature of prayer, meditation and worship from psychological, cultural and social perspectives
  • Monastic spirituality, ascetical practices and mysticism
  • Symbols and art in spirituality
  • Theory of ritual
  • Varieties of spirituality
  • Overview and survey of teachings and spirituality in Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 22Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 11Seminars
Guided INdependent Study267Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan (for summative assessment)300 words1-9Written
Group oral presentation Power-point presentation analysing theme of the week1-9Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay503000 words1-9Written and oral
Take home examination502 hours1-9Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-9Referral/Deferral period
ExaminationEssay1-9Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading


  • Ian S. Markham with Christy Lohr, eds., A World Religions Reader, 3rd ed. (Malde, MA/Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).
  • Philip Sheldrake, Spirituality: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: Bloomsbury, 2014).
  • Houston Smith, The World’s Religions, 2nd Ed. (NY: HarperOne, 2009).


  • Arthur Holder (ed). The Blackwell Companion to Christian Theology (Oxford: Blackwell Pub., 2011).
  • R. C. D. Jasper and G. J. Cuming (eds), Prayers of the Eucharist: Early and Reformed, 3rd edn. (Collegville, ME: Liturgical Press, 1990)
  • Gerald Palmer, Philip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware(trans. and eds.) (1979-1995), The Philokalia, 4 Vols and 5th forthcoming (London: Faber & Faber, 1979-).
  • Bernard McGinn, John Meyendorff and Jean Leclercq (eds.), Christian spirituality I, Origins to the twelfth century (London : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986)
  • Jill Raitt, Bernard McGinn and John Meyendorff (eds.), Christian spirituality II: high Middle Ages to the Reformation (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987).
  • Louis Dupré, John Saliers, John Meyendorff (eds.), Christian Spirituality III: Post Reformation and Modern (NY: Crossroad: 1989).


  • Seyyed Hossein Nasr (ed.), Islamic spirituality: foundations (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987).
  • Seyyed Hossein Nasr (ed.), Islamic spirituality: manifestations (NY: Crossroad, 1991).
  • John Renard (ed), Islamic Theological Themes: A Primary Source Reader (Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2014).
  • John Renard (ed.), Windows on the House of Islam: Muslim Sources on Spirituality and Religious Life (Oakland, California: University of California Press, 1998)


  • Krishna Sivaraman (ed), Hindu spirituality I: Vedas through Vedanta (London: SCM Press, 1989)
  • K. R. Sundararajan and Bithika Mukerji (eds), Hindu Spirituality II: Postclassical and Modern (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Pub., 2003)
  • Arvind Sharma, A Guide to Hindu Spirituality (Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2006).
  • Bharati, The Tantric Tradition (London: Rider, 1965).
  • J. Fuller, The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India, 2nd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003).


  • Takeuchi Yoshinori (ed.), Buddhist Spirituality I: Indian, Southeast Asian, Tibetan and Early Chinese (World Spirituality) (NY: Crossroad, 1980)
  • Kazuaki Tanahashi (ed.), Moon in a Dewdrop: Writing ofZen Master Dogen, (Longmead: Element Books, 1988).
  • Steve Heine and Dale S. Wright (eds.), Zen Ritual: Studies of Zen Buddhist Theory in Practice (Oxford/NY: Oxford University Press, 2008).
  • Shri Dharmakirti, Mahayana Tantra: An Introduction (London: Penguin, 2002).
  • Jose Ignacio Cabezon (ed.). Tibetan Ritual (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).
  • Reginald A. Ray, Indestructible Truth: The Living Spirituality of Tibetan Buddhism (Boston/London: Shambahla Pub., 2002)
  • Takeuchi Yoshinori (ed.) Buddhist Spirituality II: Later China, Korea, Japan and the Modern World (World Spirituality) (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Pub., 2003)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

World religions, spirituality, holiness, prayer, monasticism, asceticism, meditation, worship, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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