Hidden Religiosity in One of the World’s Least Religious Countries
Estonian Doctor Luule Viilma and Her Spiritual Teachings
Keywords:New spirituality, implicit religion, alternative healing, meaning of illness, mind-body-spirit books, post-Soviet health system, Luule Viilma.
The article analyzes the case of Estonian gynecologist and spiritual teacher Luule Viilma (1950–2002), whose status as a best-selling author of spiritual self-help books seems paradoxical in Estonia, which is one of the most non-religious countries in the world. The study focuses on the mysticized aspects of Viilma's personality and the central elements of her legacy: moral, meaning-making pursuits, and principles of self-spirituality, including the sacralization of the body and self. Viilma's syncretic teachings combined elements from several sources, including folk religion, the New Age movement, and Christianity, with their religiosity mostly disguised. The Estonian example suggests that religious/spiritual ideas are present even in the least religious societies. Although usually latent, such ideas become activated when people have specific reasons to turn to spiritual or religious sources. Health-related spiritual teachings (with their religiosity disguised) have been more effective than traditional religions in introducing religious meanings and frames in post-Soviet Estonia.
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