What is Contemplation?

An interview series

What is contemplation? How do different contemplative traditions – religious and secular, historical and modern – understand practices and experiences of contemplation? Given the incredible diversity of contemplation in the historical record and the capacious use of the term in English and native languages of contemplative traditions, the question about what defines contemplation spurs research and scholarship.  

When the Journal of Contemplative Studies was launched in the Fall 2022, the JCS Advisory Board grappled with the question about how best to define this critical term at the heart of the journal’s identity. Though tempted, the board resisted the urge to define contemplation, and instead opted to leave it open for authors to define. To address this driving question, JCS staff sit down with leading scholars in Contemplative Studies to ask four questions: 

  1. What is contemplation? 
  2. How is contemplation relevant to your research? 
  3. What excites you about future directions in the study of contemplation? 
  4. What are your favorite books in Contemplative Studies? 

This Currents series weaves together multivalent perspectives in a tapestry of responses to this question. We invite you to read and explore the many meanings of contemplation.

What is Contemplation?: An Interview with Martijn van Beek

What is Contemplation?: An Interview with Martijn van Beek

Martijn van Beek is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Aarhus University in Denmark. He specializes in ethnographic and phenomenological perspectives on meditation. Conducted by Erin Burke, a doctoral candidate at the University of Virginia and a Research Assistant at the Journal of Contemplative Studies. JCS: What is contemplation? MVB: In my BA…

What is Contemplation?: An Interview with Loriliai Biernacki

What is Contemplation?: An Interview with Loriliai Biernacki

Loriliai Biernacki is a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is the author of Renowned Goddess of Desire (2007) and The Matter of Wonder: Abhinavagupta’s Panentheism and New Materialism (2023). She is also co-chair of the Contemplative Studies unit at the American Academy of Religion.  Conducted by Erin Burke, a…