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Research at St Andrews

Isaac Portilla


Research overview

Research Focus: 

Interfaith Dialogue. World Religions. The Academic Study of Mystical Experience/Consciousness. Hermeneutical Phenomenology.

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:

Hermeneutical phenomenology; mystical phenomenology; cross-disciplinary hermeneutical, theological, and philosophical enquiry.

Fellowships & Memberships:

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

Centres & Networks

  • Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics (CSRP, University of St Andrews)
  • Scholars at the Peripheries (org. by CSRP, University of St Andrews)
  • Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies (OCHS, Oxford)
  • The Mystical Theology Network (MTN, Oxford)

Research interests:


Phenomenology of mystical experience; ecumenical spirituality; mysticism; interfaith dialogue; mystical consciousnesschallenges and opportunities in inter-religious encounters; complementarity of spiritual traditions (Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Hinduism); insider-outsider dynamics in religious studies; wisdom teachings in the New Testament; world religions; dual/multiple religious belonging; Indian sages: Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Aurobindo; East-West dialogue; Hindu-Christian dialogue.

Particular (current):

(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)  Phenomenology of mystical experience in the Buddhist, Christian, Taoist, and Indian Dharma traditions.

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