Tag Archive: spirituality


Time magazine’s Healthland supplement summarizes a recent clinical study of 18 healthy, spiritually inclined adults who were administered a certain drug over 5 eight-hour sessions. Among the results:

Fourteen months after participating in the study, 94% of those who received the drug said the experiment was one of the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives; 39% said it was the single most meaningful experience.

Critically, however, the participants themselves were not the only ones who saw the benefit from the insights they gained: their friends, family member and colleagues also reported that [X] had made the participants calmer, happier and kinder.

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The news that self-help guru James Arthur Ray has been found guilty of three counts of negligent homicide brings to an end (of sorts) a saga that began with three deaths and numerous injuries at an October, 2009, sweat lodge ceremony outside Sedona, Arizona. Since I’ve written a handful of articles and half a book about Sedona, and some of the people I wrote about have been indirectly affected by the event, I thought it fitting to comment on it here.

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This post continues from the previous in this series, which looked at integral ecophilosopher Sean Esbjorn-Hargens’s writing on the ontology of climate change. Here I examine the relationship between leading integral theorist Ken Wilber, integralist Esbjorn-Hargens, and process philosopher Alfred North Whitehead.

It’s a little difficult to separate Wilber’s and Esbjorn-Hargens’s views on Whitehead. I will  simply refer to “IT” (Integral Theory) in speaking of both their views, though these are generally ascribable to Wilber. (And I should note that identification of the term “Integral Theory” with Wilber himself is not uncontested.) I will use “KW” (Wilber) or “EH” (Esbjorn-Hargens) when quoting from specific written sources. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes attributed to EH will be from his article “Integrating Whitehead: Towards an Environmental Ethic,” which is found online, undated and unpaginated, at the integralworld.net website. Most of the Wilber references are either from “Appendix A: My Criticism of Whitehead as True but Partial,” found here, or from printed sources, especially The Eye of Spirit: An Integral Vision for a World Gone Slightly Mad (1997) and Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution (orig. 1995, revised 2000).

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Just as the Haitian earthquake was followed by a welter of religious interpretations (fundamentalist Christians blaming sinful Haitians for it, Vodoun practitioners weighing in on the events, etc.), so the Japanese quake-tsunami-meltdown trilogy is offering evidence of humanity’s interpretive propensities.

You may have already seen the YouTube troll video satirizing right-wing Christian responses, which scandalized so many viewers that the young videomaker has apparently gone into hiding. I won’t link to it, since it doesn’t really deserve all the hits, but it’s easy enough to find. The gist of it is that “God is soooo great — we prayed for him to smite his enemies and there he did, smashing those godless Japanese to smithereens.” A lot of viewers couldn’t seem to tell the difference between satire and the real thing, which apparently follows Poe’s Law: one can’t satirize fundamentalist religion without it being taken by some as the real thing, because there are enough instances in which the real thing is as bad as that (Glenn Beck being only the tip of the iceberg).

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found object

I’ve had more than my share of occasions to write and speak about faith, but it’s generally been about others’ faiths, not my own. Summarizing one’s own can be tricky, at least if one prefers to deal with substance and not with labels. The term itself is slippery: is it intended to cover beliefs about the universe (metaphysics, cosmology), principles and guidelines for action (ethics), or the practices by which those beliefs and principles are inculcated into daily life, either collectively (religion) or individually (spirituality)? Is it some combination of all of these?

Some years ago, inspired by the This I Believe public radio series, I decided to sit down and write up a creed I could sign my name to. Having come across it again recently, I’m happy to see that it still seems sensible to me, so I thought I would share it here. The analyst in me feels like treating it as a found object, unpacking it for the ‘isms’ and ‘ologies’ it covers, even speculating about the person who wrote it. But the point of the exercise is really quite different: it’s to express in everyday terms, pithily and pointedly, the orienting concepts that guide you, without reference to schools of thought or faith traditions or other kinds of things that divide us and pose barriers to dialogue.

Here they are, a few years old but more or less congruent with what I still believe.

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spiritualizing science

or, Carl Sagan rides again, and again…

Prometheus Unbound raises questions about the atheist spirituality of Symphony of Science‘s star-scientist-studded videos (pun only slightly intended — they are mostly men, yes, but drumming on djembes (!), and it’s well worth waiting to see Jane Goodall tell us about the “wuzzy” line between humans and the rest of nature in the video below, starting at about the 2’30″ point).

Spirituality is, of course, in the eye, ear, and body of its beholder. What makes this spiritual is the way it mobilizes music, movement, and poetry in the service of spreading a message, in this case the gospel of science. The use of pitch-shifting and pitch-correction software to “musicalize” the spoken voices of scientists is analogous to the intended poeticization and spiritualization of science. Science in practice is, of course, dry, slow, laborious, and boring. But the results of science can be exciting. This parallels the natural process science itself describes: from the painstakingly slow and boring life of atoms, molecules, things responding to other things, what has built up over time is the world we know. Or, as Darwin famously put it:

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