religion, esotericism, students


Analyzing the results of a study on religious and esoteric beliefs and practice among university students from five European and five American countries, we found that the level of religiousness of students depends very much on their cultural environment: the level of religiosity and esoteric beliefs is significantly higher among North- and South-American students than among European students. On the other hand, Asian spiritual techniques and esoteric methods of healing are practiced more frequently by students in North-Western European countries. In the second part of the paper, we examine the relationship between academic discipline and religious worldviews. According to our data, students in the social sciences and the arts are more distanced from religion than students of other areas of science, but they, like students of medicine and languages, are closer to esotericism than students of the ‘exact sciences’. Several hypotheses are proposed to explain these results.

Original Publication Citation

Höllinger, F., & Smith, T. B. (2002). Religion and esotericism among students: A cross-cultural comparative study. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 17, 229-249.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Taylor & Francis




David O. McKay School of Education


Counseling Psychology and Special Education