Spirituality without religion

Esalen baths

The following comes from an August 19 story published in the New York Times.

BIG SUR, Calif. …These days, as the retreat prepares to observe its 50th anniversary next month, people are still making pilgrimages here, drawn by Esalen’s focus on healing, melding of traditions and mantra of “spiritual but not religious.” Guests and workers still perform emotional “check-ins” in group “weather reports” during their stays, which can extend from a weekend to months, depending, an Esalen spokesman said, “on how far down the rabbit hole you go.” Esalen’s leaders say they are tweaking the institute’s balance between the personal and the social with an emphasis on the latter so they can present the next “edge” to America.

But others, including people formerly and currently associated with Esalen, say it is losing its relevance in a culture where New Age has become a cliché. The retreat’s half-century anniversary has coincided with continuing protests over the layoff of longtime employees as part of a management restructuring. Staff members and others have gathered in circles of silence here; on the Internet, including on a site called Esaleaks, other protesters have assailed Esalen’s management as corporate types bent on transforming the retreat into a boutique resort.

Michael Barry, a retired television writer who is now an investor, said he has been coming here since 1971. In the 1970s, his marriage broke up, and he came here with “his tail between his legs.” An acquaintance working in the laundry room let him sleep on laundry sacks while he healed himself.

“In my life, Big Sur and Esalen have been a through line for me,” said Mr. Barry, who was sitting at the back of the yurt with his wife, Sharon. He added that a “Mayan shaman talking about 2012 and the return of Kukulkan” was a “good example” of how Esalen had remained on American culture’s cutting edge.

But Peter Meyers, an Esalen regular for the past 25 years who was leading a workshop on public speaking, said the center was not moving fast enough to keep ahead of the times.

“For a long time it was the only game in town,” he said in the main lodge, where a lunch of products from Esalen’s organic gardens was being served. “You wanted to take yoga and study Eastern mysticism. Now, next to every nail place on every street in L.A. there’s a yoga studio, and there’s an ashram right next to it.”

As a culture, he said, America had also evolved beyond some of Esalen’s focus on personal emotions and growth. “Letting it all hang out — that’s passé, so what is the next edge?” he said. “The risk is that if Esalen rests on its laurels, it’ll become a museum.”

For original story, click here.

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Comments

  1. Tom Byrne says:

    Religion is other-directed: binding us to a higher Power (however perceived). With no higher Power, there can be no religion, so what point is there in “spirituality” – except as a means to self-empowerment of our own inherent “spiritual” potential? In other words: sorcery or witchcraft.

  2. Very much like the modernist in the Church, always looking for the next novelty but never truly focusing on God, the mass and its Sacraments.

  3. Animists and liars. How often we hear someone proclaim that they believe in God but not religion, and yet when we observe them what we find is a religious pattern, which typically is some form, either high or low, of animism.

  4. Chestertonfan says:

    Oddly I’ve been following this after discovering the link between Freud, Edward Bernays and the effect of psychoanalysis on the culture at large. Esalen had a hand in destroying part of the church by way of the Immaculate Heart Sisters, which spread through the Church and affects us to this day. Very sad.

  5. Maybe they will go out of business and the Diocese of Monterey can buy it and use it as a new cathedral….. Holy Navel Cathedral.

    That this place still exists is like the unbelievable fact that somewhere Disco still exists…. the 70’s are over – thank God!

  6. “…while he healed himself.”

    The hubris of man to think God is not the sole physician, and the medicine itself.

    Four little words of pure pablum (and I might add, demonic triumph) that show how our nation’s motto is “non serviam”. Four little words that are found totally acceptable, unnoteworthy, and anodyne to 99% of us, meaning 99% of NYT readers.

    “Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and ye gates thereof, be very desolate, saith the Lord. For my people have done two evils. They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, and have digged to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”

  7. goodcause says:

    These guys have some “spirit” somewhere but no overarching value system to guide them. Pain is a common denonimator, and “healing” is an objective. Many Catholics are in pain, but as yet there are not retreats for the many pains Catholics suffer, except maybe Rachel’s Vineyard.

    Remember that some Catholics define themselves as “religious” by attending Mass every Sunday but their commitment to the Gospel ends there. Other Catholics don’t attend Mass very frequently but live faith filled lives that connects them to God through generously helping others. We shouldn’t judge people through these choices but instead praise the good that each Catholic brings to their faith and its concommitant benefit to the world at large. Faith without the outflowing of good works is a dead faith, focused solely on ritual and dogma, not joy and love. Mass should be the touchstone for the beginning of our spiritual journey, not its ultimate end. In other words, we define ourselves as Catholics not by what happens inside the Church at Mass, but what we do outside the Church when Mass is over.

    Remember the bumper sticker “Religion is for those afraid of going to Hell; Spirituality is for those who have already been there”. There is some wisdom here. The Esalon people are in pain but are focusing inward instead of outward. Catholics can fall into that trap, too, as explained above. A genuine faith shows itself as the lamp whose light can be seen in the world. If you keep focused on loving your fellow man and always to reach out to them in joy, you will never be far from the Kingdom of God.

    • Catherine says:

      “If you keep focused on loving your fellow man and always reach out to them in joy, you will never be far from the kingdom of God.”

      goodcasue,

      I am reaching out to you in joy! Your name sounds good and that post sounds nice. Those are beautiful words about reaching out to your fellow man but if you truly believe them why not reach out in the direction of those who love the Extraordinary Form of the Mass? Don’t they deserve your joy too? Otherwise, your above quote just looks like another version of the Crosby Stills and Nash song, ‘If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one your with.”

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

      You are right except for one thing, to miss Mass without sufficient reason on Sundays is a Mortal Sin. God commanded us to “Keep Holy on the Sabath. The Church declared Sunday to be the Sabath because that was the day Our Lord Rose from the dead, and becasue Our Lord gave his Church the power to change things: “whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed”!

      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

  8. Just another religion, like Non-denominational churches are just another denomination.

  9. it’s great here!

    i’m enjoying a free-range hot tub experience with imported mineral water bubbling all around me, and a nice glass of organic scotch on the rocks!

    actually, have never even HEARD of this place until today’s article…but it does make me wonder if they serve free-range scotch…

  10. If Jesus did not want a Church, He would not have formed one for our needs and benefit – to bring us closer to Him.

    Human individuals should not be so prideful and arrogant that they believe they have all the answers – are a god unto themselves.
    Sounds like Satan doesn’t it !

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