Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Exploring the ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ Mystique
Category:
Spirit
Jeff Kripal

How do people gather today when they are not tied to a specific religion or belief system? Esalen faculty Jeff Kripal and Dana Sawyer have long been intrigued by this subject and will explore it at length in Conversations on the Edge: America, Spiritual But Not Religious, during the weekend of December 6-8 at Esalen.

The curated event, which is comprised of several short but impactful lecturettes that end in Q & A and conversation among the audience, will delve into the origins of the expression, “I’m spiritual but not religious,” what it means today and how it affects the different ways individuals gather.

“I think the Internet and the whole digital world have made it more challenging to create real community around these ideas,” Jeff says. “People enter their own digital worlds instead of a building once a week. We can see this with Millennials and Generation Z. I know some people think that community can be created digitally, but this remains to be seen, and I am deeply skeptical.”

Jeff is the Associate Dean of the Faculty and Graduate Programs in the School of the Humanities and the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University. He is also the chair of the Board of Trustees at Esalen. He has authored several books, including Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion, and The Flip: Epiphanies of Mind and the Future of Knowledge, which was released earlier this year and chronicles the current spiritual state of America.

Dana is an author and professor emeritus of religion and philosophy at the Maine College of Art. Their combined experiences during Conversations on the Edge promise to offer insights and address other thought-provoking questions.

“How, exactly, do you organize around a set of nonbeliefs? ‘I don’t want to be part of this. I don’t want to be part of that.’ Well, okay, what do you want to be a part of, and what can you affirm?” Jeff asks. “I think this is where Esalen may be different and might have something positive and visionary to offer. Esalen pioneered the human potential and a set of convictions that the Spiritual But Not Religious movement wanted to advance.”

Jeff also questions where today’s Spiritual But Not Religious may be gathering, noting large music festivals—Coachella, Bhaktifest, for instance—Burning Man, and such places like yoga studios, local bookstores and retreat centers as “gathering grounds.”

But he also wonders if the Spiritual But But Religious group has truly blossomed yet?

“I think individuals of the ‘spiritual but not religious’ orientation may underestimate how radical it is to say that phrase and truly inhabit all that it implies,” Jeff says. “Sometimes we think being spiritual but not religious is about accepting all religions, but really, it is also about rejecting all of them as sufficient. When you say, ‘I am spiritual but not religious,’ what you are essentially saying is, ‘I don’t think any religion has a full answer, and I’m committed to not identifying with any of them because they too often lead to bad things in the world.’ That’s a very critical stance. I hope that people who so identify can accept and embrace this ‘edge’ and not be afraid of their own critical spirits.”

Jeff paints an interesting backstory to the “spiritual but not religious” sentiment. He sees it as having sprung from Alcoholics Anonymous and that versions of it can be found in the works of Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian poet, and American transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman.

He is quick to point out that in the 1960s, Esalen founders Michael Murphy and Dick Price planted similar seedlings, noting that the duo was captivated by Frederic Spiegelberg, a Stanford University Professor of Asian Religion, who held a very sophisticated notion of “the religion of no religion.”

“What Professor Spiegelberg meant by ‘the religion of no religion’ was that reality or God—whatever language you might want to use—was an infinite potential emptiness that is always giving birth to new religious forms but, in itself, is not contained or exhausted in any religious form, culture or religion,” Jeff says. “He called it the religion of no religion.

This was the kind of paradoxical thinking and being that then became the Human Potential Movement at Esalen, which then morphed into what we call the New Age Movement of the 1980s and 1990s and today commonly comes under the rubric of the Spiritual But Not Religious, or SBNR. Each of these moments was different and carried different nuances, but they were all, I think, trying to express something of the same paradoxical truth.”

Dana Sawyer

In many ways, Michael Murphy and Dick Price watered the seeds of the Human Potential Movement In the 1960s and as a result, began creating spaces where people gathered outside of traditional religion, which traditionally was between four walls.

As the decade progressed, the counterculture went beyond those traditional “walls” and began converging at music festivals, civil rights events, and turned to yoga and enclaves such Esalen to realize and express their deeper truths.

Today, religiosity in the U.S. continues to be in sharp decline and that, too, affects how people gather. According to a recent Pew Research Center study published by the Wall Street Journal, every age group, racial group and region of the country is less Christian than it was a decade ago. This includes Millennials and Generation Z. In fact, less than half of Millennials identify as Christian; 40 percent of them are unaffiliated.

“For Millennials and Generation Z, I believe it is a lot more diverse and a lot more complicated than it was for our parents and my own generation—I was born in 1962,” Jeff notes. “These more recent generations are rightfully very concerned about climate change, for example. The Baby Boomers, on the other hand, had a draft and a war to protest.”

This rich subject matter will be explored more deeply with Jeff and Dana during Conversations on the Edge, where group sharing is encouraged.

“I hope those who attend Conversations on the Edge walk away with a much deeper sense that this sense of being spiritual but not religious is not an entirely new orientation; that there are all kinds of precedents in history, and especially in American history, certainly the same sensibilities were already present in the transcendentalist writers and poets,” Jeff adds. “I also hope that people who choose to take part in the conversation will leave feeling a little less lonely, and that we all get some new ideas on where and how communities are forming and what is possible here.”



“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Esalen Team

Exploring the ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ Mystique

About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Category:
Spirit
Jeff Kripal

How do people gather today when they are not tied to a specific religion or belief system? Esalen faculty Jeff Kripal and Dana Sawyer have long been intrigued by this subject and will explore it at length in Conversations on the Edge: America, Spiritual But Not Religious, during the weekend of December 6-8 at Esalen.

The curated event, which is comprised of several short but impactful lecturettes that end in Q & A and conversation among the audience, will delve into the origins of the expression, “I’m spiritual but not religious,” what it means today and how it affects the different ways individuals gather.

“I think the Internet and the whole digital world have made it more challenging to create real community around these ideas,” Jeff says. “People enter their own digital worlds instead of a building once a week. We can see this with Millennials and Generation Z. I know some people think that community can be created digitally, but this remains to be seen, and I am deeply skeptical.”

Jeff is the Associate Dean of the Faculty and Graduate Programs in the School of the Humanities and the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University. He is also the chair of the Board of Trustees at Esalen. He has authored several books, including Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion, and The Flip: Epiphanies of Mind and the Future of Knowledge, which was released earlier this year and chronicles the current spiritual state of America.

Dana is an author and professor emeritus of religion and philosophy at the Maine College of Art. Their combined experiences during Conversations on the Edge promise to offer insights and address other thought-provoking questions.

“How, exactly, do you organize around a set of nonbeliefs? ‘I don’t want to be part of this. I don’t want to be part of that.’ Well, okay, what do you want to be a part of, and what can you affirm?” Jeff asks. “I think this is where Esalen may be different and might have something positive and visionary to offer. Esalen pioneered the human potential and a set of convictions that the Spiritual But Not Religious movement wanted to advance.”

Jeff also questions where today’s Spiritual But Not Religious may be gathering, noting large music festivals—Coachella, Bhaktifest, for instance—Burning Man, and such places like yoga studios, local bookstores and retreat centers as “gathering grounds.”

But he also wonders if the Spiritual But But Religious group has truly blossomed yet?

“I think individuals of the ‘spiritual but not religious’ orientation may underestimate how radical it is to say that phrase and truly inhabit all that it implies,” Jeff says. “Sometimes we think being spiritual but not religious is about accepting all religions, but really, it is also about rejecting all of them as sufficient. When you say, ‘I am spiritual but not religious,’ what you are essentially saying is, ‘I don’t think any religion has a full answer, and I’m committed to not identifying with any of them because they too often lead to bad things in the world.’ That’s a very critical stance. I hope that people who so identify can accept and embrace this ‘edge’ and not be afraid of their own critical spirits.”

Jeff paints an interesting backstory to the “spiritual but not religious” sentiment. He sees it as having sprung from Alcoholics Anonymous and that versions of it can be found in the works of Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian poet, and American transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman.

He is quick to point out that in the 1960s, Esalen founders Michael Murphy and Dick Price planted similar seedlings, noting that the duo was captivated by Frederic Spiegelberg, a Stanford University Professor of Asian Religion, who held a very sophisticated notion of “the religion of no religion.”

“What Professor Spiegelberg meant by ‘the religion of no religion’ was that reality or God—whatever language you might want to use—was an infinite potential emptiness that is always giving birth to new religious forms but, in itself, is not contained or exhausted in any religious form, culture or religion,” Jeff says. “He called it the religion of no religion.

This was the kind of paradoxical thinking and being that then became the Human Potential Movement at Esalen, which then morphed into what we call the New Age Movement of the 1980s and 1990s and today commonly comes under the rubric of the Spiritual But Not Religious, or SBNR. Each of these moments was different and carried different nuances, but they were all, I think, trying to express something of the same paradoxical truth.”

Dana Sawyer

In many ways, Michael Murphy and Dick Price watered the seeds of the Human Potential Movement In the 1960s and as a result, began creating spaces where people gathered outside of traditional religion, which traditionally was between four walls.

As the decade progressed, the counterculture went beyond those traditional “walls” and began converging at music festivals, civil rights events, and turned to yoga and enclaves such Esalen to realize and express their deeper truths.

Today, religiosity in the U.S. continues to be in sharp decline and that, too, affects how people gather. According to a recent Pew Research Center study published by the Wall Street Journal, every age group, racial group and region of the country is less Christian than it was a decade ago. This includes Millennials and Generation Z. In fact, less than half of Millennials identify as Christian; 40 percent of them are unaffiliated.

“For Millennials and Generation Z, I believe it is a lot more diverse and a lot more complicated than it was for our parents and my own generation—I was born in 1962,” Jeff notes. “These more recent generations are rightfully very concerned about climate change, for example. The Baby Boomers, on the other hand, had a draft and a war to protest.”

This rich subject matter will be explored more deeply with Jeff and Dana during Conversations on the Edge, where group sharing is encouraged.

“I hope those who attend Conversations on the Edge walk away with a much deeper sense that this sense of being spiritual but not religious is not an entirely new orientation; that there are all kinds of precedents in history, and especially in American history, certainly the same sensibilities were already present in the transcendentalist writers and poets,” Jeff adds. “I also hope that people who choose to take part in the conversation will leave feeling a little less lonely, and that we all get some new ideas on where and how communities are forming and what is possible here.”



“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Exploring the ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ Mystique
Category:
Spirit

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About

Esalen Team

Exploring the ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ Mystique

About

Esalen Team

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