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Guest Speaker: Gregory Shushan, PhD.

October 11, 2014

University of Oxford, Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, Research Fellow

Gregory Shushan is a Research Fellow at the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, University of Oxford (supported by a grant from the Perrott-Warrick Fund, Trinity College, Cambridge). He is researching comparative afterlife beliefs in relation to shamanic and near-death experiences in indigenous religions worldwide. The project follows from his book *Conceptions of the Afterlife in Early Civilizations: Universalism, Constructivism, and Near-Death Experience* (nominated for the 2009 Grawemeyer Award).

Gregory received his PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Wales Lampeter, both his MA in Research Methods for the Humanities and his BA in Egyptian Archaeology from University College London, and his Diploma in Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology from Birkbeck College, University of London.

In addition to the issue of the interface of culture, cognition, and ‘religious’ experiences (and attendant implications for relativist/postmodernist extremism), his research interests include concepts of polytheism, syncretism, pluralism, and universalism in cross-cultural contexts.

Research Interests:

Relationships between religious/mystical experiences and religious beliefs,
Cross-cultural comparison,
Ancient myth and religion,
Afterlife conceptions,
Ancient and indigenous religions,
Pluralism and syncretism, and
History and theory of religion and myth.

My current research examines the relationship between afterlife conceptions and conceptually-related anomalous experiences in ethnohistoric indigenous traditions worldwide. The purpose is to determine the extent to which the conceptions are consistent (a) cross-culturally; (b) with culturally-embedded shamanic ‘other world’ experiences; and (c) with the spontaneous, evidently universal near-death experience (NDE). This will test the conclusions of my previous research which found that in addition to culture-specific elements, there are cross-culturally consistent thematic elements in the afterlife conceptions found in the religious texts of early civilizations worldwide which correspond directly to some of the most frequently reported elements of the NDE. In contrast to contemporary postmodernist-influenced paradigms, I argue that while these thematic elements are apparently universal, they are interpreted, expressed, and indeed experienced in culture-specific ways, suggesting a symbiotic relationship between belief and experience (i.e., culture-specific beliefs influence the universal experiences, and vice versa). The study is funded by a grant from the Perrott-Warrick Fund, Trinity College, University of Cambridge.

Main publications:


*Conceptions of the Afterlife in Early Civilizations: Universalism, Constructivism, and Near-Death Experience*. New York and London: Continuum, Advances in Religious Studies (2009).


‘Anomalous experiences and religious beliefs: deconstructing some contemporary philosophical axioms." Forthcoming symposium article in Method and Theory in the Study of Religion. (2012)

‘Afterlife conceptions in the Vedas’. Religion Compass. June 2011, vol. 5 no. 6, p. 202-13. Wiley-Blackwell.

‘Rehabilitating the neglected “similar”: confronting the issue of cross-cultural similarities in the study of religions’ In I. Maksutov (ed.) Comparative Religion: From Subject to Problem. Moscow State University (2009).

‘Greek and Egyptian dreams in two Ptolemaic archives: individual and cultural layers of meaning.’ In Dreaming: Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (American Psychological Association). June 2006, Vol. 16(2), 129-142.

Other Affiliations:

-University of London, Birkbeck College, Department of History, Classics & Archaeology,

-University College London, UCL Institute of Archaeology, *Alumnus*.

-University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Department of Theology, Religious Studies and Islamic Studies, *Alumnus*.

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