Update 2: Spiritual, Not Religious

I have continued to study various readings on spirituality. The readings make up the longest step in my research process this summer, as they require the most time to review, take notes on, and place into context with one another.

One book of particular interest which I have read since I last posted is called Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality, authored by Leigh Schmidt. In this book, Schmidt outlines and integrates several resounding historical developments/themes which have led to the manifestation of spirituality in America as we know it today, particularly the trend of “spiritual but not religious.” I find this book interesting because not only does it tie together several important themes/concepts/people/communities which have led to our understanding of spirituality as we now know it, but it also illuminates the impact each moment in the past has on creating the present, within or outside of a scholarly context.

This idea is amplified as I read the primary works of authors such as Aldous Huxley and D. T. Suzuki who have had significant influence on our contemporary understanding of spirituality in America ~ an understanding which manifests in our scholarly conversations, but also our personal, private conversations with one another, our music, our art, our books, our TV and movies, our individual experiences of the world and American society. As I read more and more primary and secondary sources, I am continually pushed to see how much people influence one another’s ideas and experiences of the world, whether directly or indirectly, whether due to an action in the present or many centuries ago. Though we all have our individual experiences and understandings of the world, we take shape as a multi-shaded thread in the ever-growing and ever-shifting tapestry of the world, a tapestry which has other people’s threads from thousands of years ago, however warped they might be from time.

As scholars ourselves, it is important that we treat this tapestry with respect, and that we try to illuminate its different threads, old or new, with honest clarity, because as we produce our work and we share what we have learned with others, we shape other people’s understandings of the world too.


  1. lcschwartz says:

    Hi there,

    I’ve read through your abstract and your blog posts. Your project is very interesting and seems to be coming along nicely. I’m really impressed that you’re striving to create a course on spirituality. Working to design a course for the College is very ambitious and it seems like you’re making a valuable contribution to our Religious Studies department. You mentioned in your abstract that you would hope to guest lecture for the course in Spring 2019. Does this mean that you know your course will be approved for the Spring semester?

    I’m guessing this is most likely your first time creating a syllabus for a course. Has it been challenging to go through all the readings and decide how to organize/ design the content for the syllabus? It seems like you’re very passionate about your topic and I wish you the best of luck as you finalize your research.

  2. Hello! Thanks so much for your interest. In answer to your question, yes, the course is approved for Spring 2019 (very exciting!). In response to your other question, it definitely has been challenging, especially mentally ~ I have to reflect on the different themes and ideas a lot to see how these readings/classes will best flow together under a larger narrative structure. I also have to take into account that this is a course with a certain timeline and with students who have limits in what they can do for just one course, providing some interesting extra obstacles (since there’s so much one could learn about in regards to spirituality!).

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