Neurophenomenology & Sacred Architecture
Toward an Experimental Theological Aesthetics

March 23-25, 2023 — Hosted by the School of Architecture and Planning of the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

This Interdisciplinary Symposium is made possible by grants from the Templeton Religion Trust (TRT) _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

INTENTION

Can we use today's and future empirical means to raise our understanding of the phenomenology of sacred spaces and structures, particularlly in relation to spirituality and faith? The work and thought of late neuroscientist Francisco Varela loom large here, but much has occurred since his passing, and a whole new world is unfolding. Additionally, due to the focus of the program funding this Symposium (TRT's Art Seeking Understanding), we'll consider connections to what has been termed 'aesthetic cognitivism' by some philosophers (notably Gordon Graham and Christoph Baumberger). And, of course, insights from Theological Aesthetics will play an important role in these considerations.

A selected number of individuals whose works and thoughts have been significantly advancing this new area of scholarship and research will be participating in the Symposium. They come from various disciplines, including psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, theology, medicine, computer science, the visual arts, music, and, of course, architecture. Such broad interdisciplinarity will allow us to view and interrogate the intersection of spirituality and the built environment from first, second, and third-person perspectives.

Lastly, this meeting won't be so much about listening to great lectures (although we will have them) but more about actively exchanging, arguing, and exploring ideas, questions, methodologies, findings, and possibilities. Similarly, we will have panel presentations covering ongoing research to provide concrete examples. We will use such pointers to discuss more significant, paradigmatic issues associated with harnessing 21st Century knowledge, science, and scholarship to understand better how architecture (and the sacred arts) gives us access to spiritual realities and information. To guarantee this type of symposium dynamics, the lectures will be followed by short commentaries/responses from 3 experts to invite productive and interesting discussions. Panels will be moderated conversations among the participants. In both cases, Q&A from the larger audience will be part of this program. The intention is that these healthy exchanges will begin building what may be called, for lack of better terms, an experimental theological aesthetics.