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Study programme

The Master’s programme includes a set of core courses (18 ECTS) and a number of elective courses. The core courses and the selected elective courses lead to a specific, coherent area of specialisation. The programme features two main areas of specialisation: one is more historically oriented and has a focus on Western esotericism, while the other focuses on religion and spirituality in contemporary societies. It is possible to build up a study profile focusing more particularly on Islam by combining modules from both areas of specialisation.

Programme structure

The Master's programme in Spirituality and religion comprises 60 ECTS credits:

  • 18 credits for the core courses.
  • 24 credits for the electives within an area of specialisation.
  • 18 credits for the Master’s thesis.
  • Core courses

    All students take the following three core courses during their first semester:

    • Spirituality and religion: basic concepts (6 ECTS)

    In this course, the main concepts and lines of interest of the programme will be presented and discussed, so as to offer you a tool-kit that you will be able to use during the rest of your studies.

    • Introduction to Western esotericism and spirituality (6 ECTS)

    In this course, you will receive a historical overview of spirituality, esotericism and religion in Western culture.

    • Spirituality and religion studied alive (6 ECTS)

    This third and final part of the core courses introduces you to a number of relevant social scientific methods and practices that are especially, but not exclusively, useful in relation to the study of contemporary movements at the intersections of religion and spirituality.

  • Areas of specialisation

    Apart from the core courses, you select a number of electives based on the following areas of specialisation:

    Spirituality and Esotericism in Western Culture

    In the electives for this area of specialisation, you receive a comprehensive historical overview that goes from Antiquity, through the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period, up until the present day. This area of specialisation is based on the unique expertise in the field of Western esotericism of the Centre for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and related currents (HHP), the world-leading institute in the field.

    You will follow courses offered by the Centre HHP.,  You will also have access to extraordinary resources such as the collections of the University Library (eg, the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana), the Embassy of the Free Mind (formerly known as Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, or Ritman Library), and the Library of the Theosophical Society in the Netherlands.

    Religion and Spirituality in Post-secular Societies

    In this area of specialisation, you focus on the role of religion and spirituality in our rapidly evolving contemporary societies, and pay particular attention to religious practices and experiences (“Lived Religion”) and to the interactions between the religious and the secular through the lens of spirituality. How do religious people construct and experience religion and which actions result from it? How do they organise themselves and how do they become public? How do they operate in secular society?

    This specialisation focuses not only on spirituality in the Abrahamic religions, but also on Eastern religions in the West, religions of immigrants, new religions and aspects of non-religion.

    Religion and Spirituality in Islam

    This interdepartmental area of specialisation is offered as a collaboration between Religious Studies and other programmes. It builds on Religion and Spirituality in Contemporary Societies but allows students to focus mainly on Islam.

  • Electives

    Besides the core courses, students generally only take courses from within their area of specialisation. In consultation with the tutor, students may petition the Board of Examiners to include other electives within their programme.

  • Internship

    Students can opt to include an internship (6 ECTS) within their area of specialisation. In the past, students have done internships at various research and cultural institutions within the city.

  • Thesis

    The Master’s thesis is an important part of the programme and it enables you to write an original work of research under the supervision of one of the staff members. The subject of the thesis must be mutually agreed upon by the student and the thesis supervisor.

Detailed course information

For detailed course information, please see:

UvA Course Catalogue: Spirituality and Religion

Credit transfer

Students who show exceptional promise during a regular or professional programme are encouraged to continue their studies in the two-year Research Master's programme Religious Studies. Once students are admitted to the research programme, they can transfer credits earned during their previous course of study towards their Research Master's degree. The Examinations Board determines which courses qualify for transfer.