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Research at St Andrews

Isaac Portilla


Research overview

Research Focus:

Phenomenology of mystical experience; interfaith from the perspective of mystical consciousness; Indian sages: Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Aurobindo.

Research Overview:

His general research aims to better understand the significance of spiritual-existential dynamics and mystical narratives to explain human destiny, and the evolutionary formation of mystical consciousness.  He uses phenomenological approaches, centering his enquiry on mystical experience and existential discussions which are often overlooked.

Research at St Andrews:

His present research at St Andrews focuses on the Indian sages Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Aurobindo in the context of Intra-Hindu and Hindu-Christian interfaith dialogue, and contemporary Western spiritual movements.  The research aims to better understand the unique evolutionary contributions of these iconic figures (considered by many the most important mystical sages of the 20th century), and to explore new interfaith perspectives through the lens of mystical consciousness.

Research methods:

Descriptive mystical phenomenology; mystical-phenomenological hermeneutics.

Fellowships & Memberships:

  • Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society (FRAS)
  • American Academy of Religion (AAR)
  • European Academy of Religion (EuARe)
  • Society for Hindu-Christian Studies

Research interests:


Phenomenology of mystical experience; ecumenical spirituality; interfaith dialogue.


(1)  Indian sages: Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Aurobindo.

(2)  Intra-Hindu interfaith: branches of Yoga; Sri Ramana’s Advaita; Vishnu and Shiva traditions; Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga.

(3)  Hindu-Christian interfaith: Henri Le Saux (Swami Abhishiktananda), Bede Griffiths (Swami Dayananda), Raimon Panikkar, among others.

(4)  [Past research] Phenomenology of mystical experience in the Buddhist, Christian, Taoist, and Indian Dharma traditions.

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