Religious Experience and Ritualisation

Luc M. H. De Backer


In Christian theology, the word ‘conversion’ refers to a religious experience that causes a life-changing transformation. This understanding, applied by Evangelical Christians for several centuries, fits within the Pauline paradigm associated with Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus (Rambo, 2003:213). However, Hindu traditions understand conversion differently, for they think it is often the ritual practice that affects people. In the same vein, my work demonstrates the transformative power of ritualisation on individuals, a power very different from Paul’s sudden conversion experience. In this article, I seek to examine the relationship between ritualisation and conversion and will propose an analytical framework that may be useful for identifying the powers of ritualisation that influence an individual’s entry into groups that are rooted in everyday rituals. To analyse the observations emerging from my fieldwork in European centres of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) from 2011 to 2013, I mainly draw upon C. Bell’s theory of ritualisation and P. Bourdieu’s concept of habitus.


ritual; ritualisation; conversion; rites: ISKCON;

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