Cluster Leader: Barend ter Haar, University of Hamburg
How do we map out and interpret the enormous and ever-expanding traditions of authoritative texts produced via revelation practices (e.g. spirit-writing)? The mechanisms by which new texts are actually created and legitimated as a cultural process–rather than reinterpreting old texts through written and oral commentaries–has not yet received much academic attention. Most attention goes to the texts themselves, and although apocrypha are now recognized as valuable objects of study, the creative processes behind them are still little understood. This cluster wants to focus on the processes rather than the contents of such new religious texts. This can be done through historical work, but most importantly also through fieldwork on recent or ongoing cases of scripture production. More concretely this might involve studies on the creation of texts in the Falun Gong, spirit writing cults, and the rise of new quasi-holy texts in the form of writings by important Buddhist or other religious masters. Spirit-writing cults in the mainland are not always accessible, but would be especially important since they are most likely not linked to new religious movements, and therefore of a different type than most spirit writing in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Another part of this cluster could be the more conventional study of the production and reproduction of sacred scriptures (e.g. Morality Books and new scriptures) in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This could be done in a more traditional way by studying specific new texts of the period and incorporating traditional historical data, for instance, on the early history of the Unity Way and similarly new religious groups of the period.