top of page
Government Building Columns

What is Hermeneutics?

The first question people usually ask us is, what on earth is hermeneutics? Until relatively recently hermeneutics was considered an obscure field. However, in recent years it has come to prominence in academic circles with the rapid rise of Modern Hermeneutics, as opposed to what, we might call, Traditional Hermeneutics. 


In short, Hermeneutics is the art of interpretation. This is suggested in it’s ancient greek origin coming from a word that means, to explain or translate and this definition holds true for both modern and traditional hermeneutics. 

Modern Hermeneutics

According to the academic Jens Zimmerman, modern hermeneutic is “an activity consisting of any effort to understand written or verbal communication”. As such, it is a rapidly developing area of academic research.


Traditional Hermeneutics

The original form of hermeneutics is regarded as a philosophy and goes deep into the very nature of understanding itself. It does this by delving into the theory of the discovery and communication of the concepts and teachings of the scriptures of the world. It is to practice the SCIENCE of attaining clarity, by comprehending, explaining and establishing the sense of traditional authors. And to be open to doing so from different religious traditions and perceptions. Thus Quranic Hermeneutics is the study of the interpretation of the Quran, Talmudic Hermeneutics the meaning of scripture within Rabbinic Judaism and Biblical Hermeneutics concerning the Bible. However, it is also an ART because the application of the science of interpretation, is by skill and is not mechanical.


Furthermore, hermeneutics looks to the individual's own apprehension rather than the conveyance of the meaning ascertained to others, thereby enabling individuals to interpret for themselves in the light of their own experience. In other words, making the fruits of our study relevant to ourselves, in our own time and place based on our own experiences.


It is this traditional form of hermeneutics that is the heart of the International Hermeneutic Society’s work. However, it is not studied merely as an intellectual exercise but rather as a means of finding practical ways to apply the insights gained for personal development and wellbeing. Ultimately working towards self-integration of thought, feeling and will, thereby raising our individual consciousness to a higher level.  A state at it's highest level, described as Reflective Self-Consciousness by our co-founder Eugene Halliday, who established the Society and its work in in the late 1950's in Liverpool, along with his friend and student, Khen Ratcliffe.


Halftone Image of Crowd


10 Things you should know about Hermeneutics according to Oxford University Press

Halftone Image of Crowd


The Society is based at Tan-y-Garth Hall Retreat near Llangollen in North Wales. Its Objects are to promote research and study into spiritual, psychological and scientific knowledge for the purpose of discovering principles for the practical improvement of the spiritual and physical well-being of mankind. And to teach these to others.  


The Society is managed by a Council of trustees elected from the membership. It's residential centre at Tan-y-Garth Hall is run entirely by volunteers with day-to-day management delegated to the society's Secretary. Teaching responsibilities are collectively shared by the society’s more experienced members.   

Hephzi's friend 1.jpg


Hermes edit.png




Throughout the year we run a teaching programme on aspects of what we call HARPS subjects; Hermeneutics, Arts, Religion, Philosophy & Science. These consist of weekend retreats and all-day workshops of intensive work at all levels. Courses are hosted by one or more of the Society’s most experienced members and also by guest speakers, all of whom are experts on the given subject.


Offers of talks from suitable experienced guest speakers on any HARPS related subject are always welcome. Please contact us to discuss your ideas.



To support our teaching we have a well stocked library of books and sound recordings on HARPS, including the complete works of Eugene Halliday. We also own a comprehensive audio archive collection of invaluable lectures by Eugene Halliday, Khen Ratcliffe and others, many of which are original recordings. Our intention is to extend our collection in the future via IHS-TV, our dedicated video channel soon to be narrowcasting from this website.


We are currently going through a prolonged process of change which is both generational and organisational in nature. We are therefore unable to undertake research activity at present. We do still welcome any proposals from researchers active in the field of Traditional Hermeneutics wishing to disseminate or share their findings to a non-academic audience



Subscribe to Site

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page