Project Summary

With funding from the Templeton Religion Trust, this project explores the possibility that secular art can encourage spiritual understanding.

Impact and Benefit

By studying the practices that artists and their audience adopt in relation to art, we hope to show that art may be a source of spiritual understanding even if the art in question is not explicitly religious.

Our hypothesis is that secular art produces cognitive effects that are similar to the spiritual understanding produced by religious rituals. Since ritual has been studied from both scientific and humanistic perspectives, we think it opens new possibilities for collaboration between artists, scientists, and scholars of religion.

In our view, cross-disciplinary research on the arts can encourage mutual understanding between those who identify as religious and those who do not.


Project co-director Lexi Eikelboom and team member Sarah Tomasetti discussed the project in an episode of the ABC Radio National program, Soul Search: “Art after religion? Artmaking as a spiritual practice.”


The Templeton Religion Trust has awarded the project USD 230,267.00 in connecting with its Art Seeking Understanding grant program.


The project will host an art exhibition in November 2022 along with a public event: details tbd.



Research Investigators

The project is led by Lexi Eikelboom and David Newheiser, both from ACU.

Research Partners

The project team includes


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