Reciprocal Illumination and the Discovery of Fractal Patterns in Religious Diversity

Schmidt-Leukel, Perry

Research article (journal)


This essay presents Arvind Sharma’s concept of “reciprocal illumination” as an innovative defense of interreligious comparison, showing that the comparative approach is still meaningful despite its currently widespread critique. In discussing Sharma’s concept, the essay focuses on the internal diversity of religious traditions, asking whether “reciprocal illumination” is possible because religious diversity is apparently not entirely at random but displays recurrent patterns and structures of a fractal nature. The existence of fractal patterns would explain very well not merely why “reciprocal illumination” is possible at all, but especially in what sense it fosters interreligious learning as part of the growing field of interreligious theology. The latter aspect is investigated by relating Sharma’s three types of “reciprocal illumination” to Catherine Cornille’s recent classification of six forms of interreligious learning. It will be argued that interreligious learning and reciprocal illumination are likely to lead to a radical change in religious self-understanding, perceiving one’s own tradition as a unique, internally diverse, and equally valid part and component of a larger diverse web of religious phenomena.

Details zur Publikation

Release year: 2024
Language in which the publication is writtenEnglish
Link to the full text: