Down to Earth: Lutheran Bodies and Spiritual Physiology, 1600–1720


Karin Sennefelt (Stockholm University)




18:15 Central European Summer Time


Campus Westend and Zoom Meeting

Bodies and spirits involved the most fundamental elements of life in the early modern Lutheran world; what it was to be in the world, what types of entities actually existed, what substances reality was made up of, and whether perception was to be trusted. These fundamentals connected individuals to the weatherworlds that they dwelled in, the Eucharistic wine that they digested, and to rulers that defended the faith. Yet, we know much more about the spiritual side of this cosmic relationship than we do about the corporeal—what this meant for how the body worked. This talk explores the living bodies of seventeenth-century Lutherans to discover how religion affected its workings and the ways it was realised. In that it brings spirituality down to earth and into the physical beings that experienced and shaped religious life. It suggests that the laity were more concerned with bodily processes when it came to spiritual life, the functions and activities of living, than with individual organs like the heart, the ear, or, indeed, the soul. Thinking in terms of spiritual physiology lets us explore how the earthly and the divine—the base and the sublime, the physical and the elusive shadows of spirituality—played out in the somatic experiences of Lutherans in the seventeenth century.

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