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The Paranormal: Experiences and Experiments (8th Leiden Symposium on New Religiosity)

Monday 6 May 2019
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


19.30     Welcome

19.35     Elly Mulder: Journeys into the Afterlife: Emanuel Swedenborg and Near-Death Experiences

20.10     Discussion

20.35     Break

21.00     Ingrid Kloosterman:  Paranormal Science? A History of Dutch Parapsychology

21.35     Discussion

22.00     The discussion continues in a nearby pub

Free entrance. No registration needed. Open to all.


The symposium is hosted by the Leiden Centre for the Study of Religion (LUCSoR).

More information?

Contact Markus A. Davidsen (m.davidsen@hum.leidenuniv.nl) for more information.

Emanual Swedenborg (1688-1772)


Elly Mulder

Journeys into the Afterlife: Emanuel Swedenborg and Near-Death Experiences

Abstract. Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was a Swedish scientist and philosopher, famous among his contemporaries for his contributions to various fields of the natural sciences. He wrote extensively on anatomy and physiology, and he came up with a number of mechanical and mathematical inventions and discoveries. From July 1743 until October 1744, while having travelled to the Netherlands, Swedenborg kept a dream diary in order to document his dreams as well as the changes he observed in his mental states. This Drömboken or Journal of Dreams became the prelude to a process of spiritual transformation that would change the renowned academic into a seer and ‘revelator’. His later writings present vivid descriptions of the Afterlife – in particular of his encounters with angels and other spiritual entities. Interestingly, there are striking parallels between Swedenborg’s out-of-body experiences and modern Near-Death Experiences (NDEs). Drawing on the ground-breaking work by dr. Raymond Moody, who coined the term ‘near-death experience’, this presentation will highlight these parallels as well as some point of divergence. Central is the question to what extent Swedenborg’s transformational process of spiritual awakening can be compared to modern NDEs?

Bio. Elly Mulder obtained her BA and MA degrees in Theology & Religious Studies at Leiden University in 2015 and 2016 respectively. She is currently working on her PhD at the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Religion (LUCSoR), focusing on the emergence and development of Swedenborgianism in the Netherlands from 1850 onwards.

Dr. Ingrid Kloosterman

Paranormal Science? A History of Dutch Parapsychology

Abstract. The history of Dutch academic parapsychology is particularly rich. Ever since the 1890s, up until 2011, the scientific investigation of phenomena such as telepathy and psychokinesis had its place at academia in the Netherlands. How should we understand this persistent academic presence of a discipline that always seems to have been regarded as different, contested and even as a ‘pseudo-science’? In my lecture I will discuss several parapsychological experiments that can gain us insight in the various processes involved in the academic perseverance of Dutch parapsychology. In their research methods, parapsychologists were quite similar to ‘normal’ psychologists. The long-lasting academic history of Dutch parapsychology offers a reflexive perspective upon the developments within academic psychology. Parapsychology, then, serves as the mirror of psychology and offers the latter valuable lessons.

Bio. Ingrid Kloosterman has obtained her PhD at Utrecht University in 2016. Her Dutch dissertation Wetenschap van gene zijde was published in 2017. She has taught on the history and philosophy of the social sciences to both bachelor and master students at Utrecht University.

Previous Leiden symposia on New Religiosity

2012: Hekserij in Holland

2013: Identity and Tradition in Contemporary Paganism

2014: New Forms of Sacrality in the Netherlands

2015: Playing with Religion

2016: Elves, Spirits, and Aliens: Superhuman Entities in New Religions

2017: What Cards and Coins Reveal: Divinatory Techniques in the Netherlands

2018: Stories of the Supernatural: Encounters with the Other Side in Literary and Everyday Narratives

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