Paul Heelas

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Paul Lauchlan Faux Heelas (born 1946) is a British sociologist and anthropologist. He is noted for work in the field of spirituality, religion and modernity, with special reference to 'New Age' spiritualities of life. Recent publications and current research explore 'the sacred' and 'the secular'; transgressions of the secular (idealization, vitalization); 'life force', CAM, and 'spiritual humanism' (including 'third force' Sufism).

Heelas was educated at St Catherine's College, Oxford (BA Geography; Diploma, with Distinction, in Social Anthropology) and Exeter College, Oxford (DPhil Anthropology).

Heelas has served as Professor in Religion and Modernity, Department of Religious Studies, Lancaster University, and as Senior Research Professor in the Sociology of Contemporary Spirituality, Department of Sociology, CROCUS research group, Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Heelas has spent over three years devoted to intensive field research: Nepal (Sherpa religion), London (Programmes Ltd and Exegesis), Brazil (holistic Rio de Janeiro), India ('New Age' Madras and environs), Pakistan ('New Age' Islamabad and environs). He has lived for over six years in Nepal, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Uganda,and Pakistan.

Heelas has helped found two journals: the Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford and Cultural Values [now the Journal for Cultural Research].

Major research projects

Study of Exegesis and Programmes Ltd ('The Business of Transformation and the Transformation of Business')

The Kendal Project ('Patterns of the Sacred in Contemporary Society')

The Burnley Project (See Andrew Holden Religious Cohesion in Times of Conflict: Christian-Muslim Relations in Segregated Towns (2009))

Major Publications (volumes)

A trilogy of volumes exploring 'alternative', inner-life spiritualities:

  • 1996 The New Age Movement. The Celebration of the Self and the Sacralization of Modernity. Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19332-4
  • 2005 Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead, with Benjamin Seel, Bronislaw Szerszynski and Karin Tusting, The Spiritual Revolution. Why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality. Blackwell. ISBN 1-4051-1959-4
  • 2008 Spiritualities of Life. New Age Romanticism and Consumptive Capitalism. Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-3938-0

A study of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh/Osho's path:

  • 1986/1988 Judith Thompson and Paul Heelas, The Way of the Heart. The Rajneesh Movement. Thorsons. ISBN 0-85030-434-2; Borgo Press.

Spirituality in the Modern World:

  • 2012 Paul Heelas (ed.) Spirituality in the Modern World. Within Religious Tradition and Beyond. 4-Volume Set; three introductory essays by Heelas: 'On Making Some Sense of Spirituality', 'On Some Major Issues', 'On Some Significant Themes'. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-49029-0

Cultural selves (spirituality/religion):

  • 1981 Paul Heelas and Andrew Lock (eds), Indigenous Psychologies. The Anthropology of the Self. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-336480-9

Spirituality/religion; culture/society:

  • 1992 Paul Heelas and Paul Morris (eds), The Values of the Enterprise Culture. The Moral Debate. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-07615-3
  • 1996 Paul Heelas, Scott Lash and Paul Morris (eds), Detraditionalization. Critical Reflections on Authority and Identity. Blackwell. ISBN 1-55786-555-8
  • 1998 Paul Heelas (ed.), with the assistance of David Martin and Paul Morris, Religion, Modernity and Postmodernity. Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19848-2
  • 2000 Linda Woodhead and Paul Heelas (eds), Religion in Modern Times. An Interpretive Anthology. Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-21074-1
  • 2001 Linda Woodhead, with Paul Heelas and David Martin (eds), Peter Berger and the Study of Religion. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-21531-5
  • 2003 Grace Davie, Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead (eds), Predicting Religion. Christianity, Secular and Alternative Futures. Ashgate. ISBN 0-7546 0739 9

Selected essays

Transgressing the secular

  • 2000 'Expressive Spirituality and Humanistic Expressivism. Sources of Significance beyond Church and Chapel'. In Steven Sutcliffe and Marion Bowman (eds), Beyond New Age. Exploring Alternative Spirituality. Edinburgh University Press.
  • 2001 'New Age Utopianism, Cultural Extremities and Modernity'. In Kieran Flanagan and Peter Jupp (eds), Virtue Ethics and Sociology. Macmillan.
  • 2002 'The Spiritual Revolution: From “Religion” to “Spirituality”'. In Linda Woodhead, Paul Fletcher, Hiroko Kawanami and David Smith (eds), Religions in the Modern World. Traditions and Transformations. Routledge.
  • 2006 'Challenging Secularization Theory: The Growth of “New Age” Spiritualities of Life'. Hedgehog Review.
  • 2009 (With Dick Houtman) 'Research Note: RAMP Findings and Making Sense of the “God Within Each Person, Rather than Out There”'. Journal of Contemporary Religion.
  • 2012 'Theorizing the Sacred: The Role of the Implicit in Yearning “Away”'. Implicit Religion.
  • 2013 'Transpersonal Pakistan'. International Journal of Interpersonal Studies. [in press]
  • 2013 'On Transgressing the Secular: Spiritualities of Life, Idealism, Vitalism',in Steven J. Sutcliffe and Ingvild Saelid Gilhus (eds), New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion. Acumen. [in press]


  • 1977 'The Powers of the Eye'. Religion.
  • 1982 'Anthropology, Violence and Catharsis'. In Peter Marsh and Anne Campbell (eds), Aggression and Violence. Blackwell.
  • 1984 'Emotions Across Cultures: Objectivity and Cultural Divergence'. In S. C. Brown (ed.), Objectivity and Cultural Divergence. Cambridge University Press. (Royal Institute of Philosophy Lecture Series)
  • 1986 'Emotion Talk Across Cultures'. In Rom Harre (ed.), Social Construction of Emotions. Blackwell.


  • 2006 'Nursing Spirituality'. Spirituality and Health International.
  • 2012 ‘“New Age” Spirituality as “Tradition” of Healthcare'. In Mark Cobb, Christina Puchalski and Bruce Rumbold (eds) Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare. Oxford University Press.
  • 2013 'CAM: Healing the Person, Spiritual Humanism, and the Cultivation of Humanity', in Elisabeth Hense, Frans Jespers and Peter Nissen (eds)Present Day Spiritualities. Brill. [in press]


  • 1991 'Cults for Capitalism. Self Religions, Magic and the Empowerment of Business'. In Peter Gee and John Fulton (eds), Religion and Power, Decline and Growth. London: British Sociological Association, Sociology of Religion Study Group.
  • 1992 'God's Company: New Age Ethics and the Bank of Credit and Commerce International'. Religion Today.[now Journal of Contemporary Religion].
  • 1992 'The Sacralization of the Self and New Age Capitalism'. In Nicholas Abercrombie and Alan Warde (eds), Social Change in Contemporary Britain. Polity.
  • 2002 'Work Ethics, Soft Capitalism and the “Turn to Life”'. In Paul du Gay and Mike Pryke (eds) Cultural Economy. Cultural Analysis and Commercial Life. Sage.


  • 1994 'The Limits of Consumption and the Post-modern “Religion” of the New Age'. In Russell Keat, Nigel Whiteley and Nicholas Abercrombie (eds), The Authority of the Consumer. Routledge.

Socializing subjectivities

  • 1982 'Californian Self Religions and Socializing the Subjective'. In Eileen Barker (ed.), New Religious Movements: a Perspective for Understanding Society. Edwin Mellen.
  • 2001 (with Linda Woodhead) 'Homeless Minds Today?' In Linda Woodhead with Paul Heelas and David Martin (eds). Peter Berger and the Study of Religion. Routledge.
  • 2006 'The Infirmity Debate: On the Viability of New Age Spiritualities of Life'. Journal of Contemporary Religion.


Curriculum Vitae ( Google Scholar Publish or Perish

External links[edit]