FINYAR – Association for Research and Information on New Religious Movements and Alternative Spirituality

FINYAR is a Nordic association whose main task is to promote research and provide information on new religious movements and alternative spirituality. FINYAR primarily organizes scholars and postgraduate research students but other persons with an interest in questions regarding alternative spirituality are also welcome as members.

The members of FINYAR come from different academic disciplines and have different perspectives on alternative spirituality. Common for all members is the ambition to shed light upon new religious movements and alternative spirituality objectively and impartially from a scientific basis. Like other religious phenomena, alternative spirituality can be studied from different scholarly perspectives: historical, sociological, psychological or anthropological.

FINYAR was established in 1997 by a number of scholars in Swedish universities working within a variety of disciplines associated with the academic study of religion and behavioral sciences.  FINYAR became a Nordic-wide association in 2010.

FINYAR’s field of work

• Publishes an annual journal that reflects current research in the Nordic countries
• Offers information to the public, media, government authorities, and other public
    authorities and institutions
• Arranges interdisciplinary conferences
• Collects data connected to new religious movements and alternative spirituality
• Publishes a web site with up to date information
• Maintains contact with similar organizations and networks in other countries

FINYAR issues an annual journal on new religious movements and alternative spirituality [clickable]. In 2009, the annual journal has changed its name to Aura: Journal for the Academic Study of Alternative Spirituality and it is now Nordic. The journal consists of articles written by some of the leading experts on new religious movements and alternative spirituality. The journal is included in the membership fee.

FINYAR also organizes annual or bi-annual research conferences [clickable], sometimes in cooperation with other organizations.

The University of Stockholm holds a collection of data concerning new religious movements and alternative spirituality which has been donated by different people connected with FINYAR over the last years. Researchers can gain access to this collection at the university.

Organizations similar to FINYAR exist in other countries, for example CESNUR in Italy, INFORM in England and ISSNR (International Society for the Study of New Religions). FINYAR cooperates with these academic organizations, which provides opportunities for exchange of information and experiences from other parts of the world.

What are new religious movements and alternative spirituality?

“New Religious Movements” is an umbrella term for some religious groupings that emerged in the Western world in the second part of the 20th century. The Church of Scientology, The Moonies (Unification Church) and the Hare Krishna movement (ISKCON) are examples of such groups. These movements are international and operate in a large number of countries, among them Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway. There are also new religious movements that are specific to a certain country.

“Alternative spirituality” is a wider term which also includes more unorganized phenomena and trends, such as the phenomena comprised in the term sometimes referred to as “New Age”. Included in the term alternative spirituality are also sometimes new expressions in existing religions.

Religion is a dynamic phenomenon.  Historically there has been alternative spirituality as well as new religious movements. These phenomena are also present in cultures other than the Western. Therefore, in a broader sense, a larger number of phenomena than the ones mentioned above can be defined as alternative spirituality.


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