The gendering of religious experience: Ecstatic trance in Cheondogyo

Kirsten Bell

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Cheondogyo is a Korean religion which espouses a central doctrine that has often been labelled 'radically egalitarian.' However, although religious ideologies emphasize gender equality, in practice these themes are translated in ways that seem to limit women's access to power. These gender differences are most apparent in ecstatic trance, which occurs reasonably often during religious training sessions. While legitimized by the religion's founder as a key source of spiritual enlightenment, the more boisterous forms of ecstatic trance are viewed with hostility. Because these forms of trance are exclusive to women, this condemnation of ecstatic trance becomes a condemnation of a largely female expression of religiosity. Moreover, ecstatic trance is seen to confirm a female affinity for instinctive spirituality, which deems them unsuitable for the types of leadership positions currently dominated by men.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-37
Number of pages31
JournalAsian Journal of Women's Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Ecstatic trance
  • Female subordination
  • I. M. Lewis
  • New Religious Movements (NRMs)
  • Spirit possession


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