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Chaplains Are Learning to Become Psychedelic GuidesFrom Harvard to Berkeley and back to Boulder, a robust conversation has begun about bringing trained chaplains into the burgeoning network of those offering psychedelic-assisted therapy and spiritual care.

Chaplains are often ordained in a specific religious tradition, but are also trained to care for people of other faiths — or no faith — in hospitals, prisons, universities, and the military.

Whether it’s counseling families who have just lost a loved one in the emergency room, or dealing with soldiers recovering from the horrors of war, chaplains help people get through the most traumatic events of their lives.
May 4, 2022
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Recent articles for
Science and mysticism, the secret psychedelic history of Alcoholics Anonymous, adventures on ketamine, Spanish castle magic, and a couple movie

The War on Drugs Halted Research Into the Potential Benefits of Psychedelics
Now it’s finally starting
up again

In the fall of 1965, a 33-year-old father of three named Arthur King—a patient on the alcoholics ward at Baltimore’s Spring Grove Hospital—swallowed an LSD pill and laid back on his bed in a special unit called “Cottage Thirteen.” Sanford Unger, the chief of psychosocial research at the Maryland State Psychiatric Research Center, knelt beside King’s bed, holding his hand and reassuring the patient as he started to feel the drug’s mind-altering effects.

This was not a normal psycho-therapy session. During his 12-hour experience, designed to help stop his destructive drinking habit, King sat on the edge of the bed and looked at the photo of his son that he’d brought. Suddenly, the child became alive in the picture, which initially frightened him. Then King noticed that a lick of his son’s hair was out of place, so he stroked the photo, putting the errant strands back in place. His fear vanished. Later, Unger held out a small vase with a single red rose. King looked at the flower, which seemed to be opening and closing, as though it were breathing. At one point, Unger asked him whether he’d like to go out to a bar and have a few drinks. King didn’t say anything but was shocked when the rose suddenly turned black and dropped dead before his eyes. He never picked up another drink.
Slate, New America. and ASU
January 3, 2017
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Fighting fire with Zen at Tassajara
Monks meditate in the Zendo.

Being at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in the summer and the fall is being with fire, or at least co-existing with the possibility that a sudden fire could sweep through these rugged hills east of Big Sur and devour this historic Buddhist monastery and picturesque hot springs retreat.

That potentiality was certainly on the minds of 75 summer guests who heeded an evacuation order in late July and climbed into four-wheel-drive vehicles for the 14-mile, hour-long escape to tiny Jamesburg, where one finds the comforts of pavement and a road to Carmel Valley.

After burning for nearly three months and scorching an area four times the size of San Francisco, the Soberanes Fire was declared contained in October at a cost of at least $235 million, making it by some accounts the most expensive wildfire battle in U.S. history.
San Francisco Chronicle
November 23, 2016

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Calling all mystics

Clergy psychedelic study
aims to awaken spiritual experiences

Researchers investigating beneficial new uses for psychedelic drugs have set their sights on what may seem an unlikely group of volunteer subjects — your local priest, minister or rabbi.

Scientists at New York University and Johns Hopkins University have already shown positive results in an expanding program where psychotherapists have used psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” to treat depression and acute anxiety in cancer patients.

Roland Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins, is leading the new research, which stems from findings that volunteers who’ve taken psilocybin in a wide variety of research settings often report profound mystical experiences.

Griffiths wonders whether these altered states of consciousness are the same as those reported by longtime meditators or highly religious individuals. And he now has a three-pronged research project that will attempt to answer that question.
Religion News Service
October 22, 2015
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The New Sexual

Thou Shalt Have Great Sex.

For most Americans, issues of sexual ethics and sexual morality have long been intertwined with the teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition. But today, growing numbers of people who call themselves “spiritual but not religious,” along with more liberal members of the nation’s churches and synagogues, are looking for a new sexual ethic—one that goes beyond the “thou shalt nots” of organized religion.

Many are searching for a more joyous, sex-positive theology. They are looking to see what their own sexual experiences tell them about spiritual truth—and to connect their spiritual and sexual selves.

This exploration raises as many questions as answers in an era of rapidly changing sexual mores. Today, once-closeted gay couples are living happily ever after in marriage; pornography formerly restricted by obscenity laws is available 24 hours a day for mass consumption online; teens flirt by “sexting”; and online dating sites facilitate everything from quickie hookups to clandestine extramarital activities (“Life is short, have an affair,” suggests Ashley, a dating website specifically for married people). Without the sexual rules that once governed our relationships, how do we separate right from wrong? What makes sex “sacred”? What makes it “profane”?
Spirituality & Health
July-August 2013

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The Next Sexual

SF minister spreads gospel
of sex in China.

The Rev. Ted McIlvenna, whose pioneering work in the 1960s helped inspire the sexual revolution and the gay rights movement, has a new crusade.

Next month, the 80-year-old Methodist rebel will lead a delegation of 10 sex experts to China to help an emerging class of financially independent Chinese women achieve female sexual empowerment.

“The second sexual revolution is about female sexuality,” said McIlvenna, a San Francisco preacher who owns what may be the world's largest collection of sex books, erotic art and vintage pornography. “And the women of China are starting to say, ‘What about our sexuality?’ ”
San Francisco Chronicle
February 18, 2013

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From Agnostic
to Zoroastrian

A-Agnostic with Answers

B-Baptists v. Mormons in Salt Lake City

C-Carter - Interview with President Jimmy Carter

D-Death -- Elizabeth Kubler-Ross Faces Her Own

E-Evangelist Billy Graham talks to Don Lattin

F-Francis of Assisi – In his home town

G-Gong – Falun Gong and China

H-Heaven’s Gate: The UFO Cult

I-Interview with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh

J-Jerusalem at the New

K-Kids in Cults

L-Lattin – Memories of Grandpa

M-Methodists Mix it Up

N-Nazareth on Christmas 1999

O-On the River Jordan

P-Pope John Paul II

Q-Questions about the Mormon’s Global Crusade

R-Rock n Roll for Jesus

S-Shameless Self-Promotion

T-Torah Rave


V-Very New Age

W-Women Transform American Church

X-X Generation Finds Jesus

Y-Your Tax Dollars and Charitable Choice

Z-Zoroastrian Christmas

Saying “Hello” in Cairo

All I was trying to do was greet Mahmoud, the front desk clerk at my small hotel in the Garden City district of Cairo

“Issallam ‘alaykum,’” I proudly proclaimed.
Momdouh return my morning greeting with a thin smile.
“We don't say that her,” he explained. ”This is a Christian hotel. We say ‘sabah il-khayr‘ or ‘good morning.’”

Travel Writing
December, 2008
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Old Hippies and the
New Mainstream


It could happen on Tuesday. Finally. The end of the '60s counterculture.

All of us aging hippies and unrepentant cannabis connoisseurs will be forced to face the fact that “we” are “them.” If Prop. 19 passes, and California legalizes the recreational use of marijuana, we must face the (rock) music and accept the fact that the counterculture is now the mainstream culture.
San Francisco Chronicle
Friday, October 29, 2010
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Mohammed Comes to
Holy Hill

Berkeley is fast becoming an American mecca for Islamic studies - -

and a testing ground
to see if Jews, Muslims and other “passionate believers” can all get along.
California Magazine
January, 2009
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All Entheogens Welcome at this Post-Modern Oakland Church
Sacred Garden Church, an intriguing experiment on the eastern edge of San Francisco Bay, emerged from a network of drug-reform advocates who in 2019 convinced the Oakland City Council to direct its police department to stop arresting people for using plant-based psychedelics like magic mushrooms and ayahuasca.

Sacred Garden calls itself “a multi-sacrament church.” Included are magic mushrooms, plants containing such psychedelic compounds as mescaline and DMT, and also psychoactive chemicals like MDMA and LSD.

You can believe almost anything you want and join the Sacred Garden. Members of this “post-modern church” adhere to a “faith of least dogma.” But they are required to at least be open to the possibility that psychedelics — used with care and respect — may provide access to the “divine.”
November 23, 2022
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Experiencing a Changa Ceremony at an Oakland Plant Medicine Church
Sara Morrill was born on a U.S. Air Force base in Mesa, Arizona in 1991, two days before the Fourth of July. Her parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were conservative evangelical Christians going all the way back to an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower.

Growing up, Sara and her siblings attended Baptist, Calvinist and non-denominational Christian congregations. Around the age of twelve, Sara started feeling “a little outside the box in my faith.”

In Sunday school, she’d been showed the “Left Behind” videos, a dramatic series about how the End Times were coming and only the faithful would be raptured. “I was afraid that people in my life would disappear from earth and that I wouldn’t be chosen to go to heaven.”
December 12, 2022
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Michael Pollan and Me:
When Lives, Books and
Acid Trips Collide

In the end, though neither of us intended it, Michael Pollan and I wound up writing books about ourselves and our own troubled minds.

Two journalists who’ve spent varying amounts of time teaching their craft at Cal give themselves an assignment that, in the end, blows away that well-worn rubric of “who, what, where, when, why.”

They are Michael Pollan, famous for his smart writing about food, and Don Lattin, a.k.a. me, known for my reverently irreverent writing about religion. Pollan
and I found a subject that falls within each of our “beats,” a magic mushroom that offers the omnivore a tantalizing glimpse
of God.  

Working on separate tracks, we each spent three to four years interviewing many of the same experts and psychedelic explorers. We had amazingly similar experiences and came up with nearly identical titles. We even had some of the same hallucinations.

My book is called Changing Our Minds—Psychedelic Sacraments and the New Psychotherapy. It was released to little fanfare in April of 2017 by Synergetic Press, a tiny publisher in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
California Magazine
May 2, 2018
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How San Francisco’s Summer of Love sparked today’s religious movements

THE 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love”

Over the past few months, the Bay Area has been waxing nostalgic over the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love,” the 1967 season when “hippies” and tens of thousands of seekers, drifters and runaways poured into the city’s suddenly chaotic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.

To many Americans, the psychedelic counterculture of the 1960s, which the Summer of Love came to represent, may seem like an irrelevant little experiment involving LSD, tie-dyes, free love, shaggy hairstyles and rock bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.

It was all of that, but the mind-blowing revolution that rocked the streets of San Francisco that summer may also be seen as a new religious movement that profoundly shaped the lives and spiritual expression of millions of Americans who never dropped acid, grew a beard, burned their bra, or set foot in a hippie commune
RNS Religion News Service
July 21, 2017
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Magic Mushrooms
Scientists at New York University and Johns Hopkins University havealready shown positive results in an expanding program where psycho-therapists have used psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic mush-rooms,” to treat depression and acute anxiety in cancer patients.

Study: Drug-induced spiritual experiences help cancer patients.

Cancer patient Tony D. Head wasn’t sure he’d call it “God” exactly, but some extraordinary power touched him during his psychedelic-assisted therapy session.

“It was so powerful and so profound that it just took my breath away,” said Head,
a a research subject in a new study of psychotherapy fueled by psilocybin, the active ingredient in the mind-altering drug known as magic mushrooms.

“Whatever it was, it was a power that is in the universe,” he added after the session at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. “I feel like it changed my life.
Religion News Service
December 1, 2016
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Patients in ecstasy clinical trial find drug benefitial
John Saul, 50, a subject in
the MDMA in Marin.

An Oakland attorney battling cancer and a Sausalito yacht broker with an equally terrifying disease sit side by side inside a cozy psychedelic psychotherapy center overlooking Mount Tamalpais. Andy Gold, the lawyer, and John Saul, the boat salesman, are perched on a piece of furniture both had gotten to know well over the past six months: “the tripping couch.”

Gold and Saul are among the first research subjects to complete a months-long clinical drug trial to determine whether psychological trauma sparked by life-threatening diagnoses such as theirs can be lessened through intense, five-hour sessions of talk and music therapy aided by MDMA —
a substance better known as
the illegal party drug ecstasy.
San Francisco Chronicle
March 19, 2016

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Ecstasy therapy approved for trial in Marin County
The Researchers: Dr. Phil Wolfson and Julane Andries

Three decades after the U.S. government slammed the door on ecstasy, a team of Marin County therapists has gotten permission to use the popular party drug in a study designed to reduce anxiety among people with cancer or other life-threatening disease.

Dr. Philip Wolfson, a San Anselmo psychiatrist and longtime advocate of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, has begun recruiting for 18 people for his research project, which will be conducted over the next year in his cozy hilltop psychotherapy center overlooking Mount Tamalpais.
San Francisco Chronicle
May 24, 2015

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Effective Tool in
Treating PSD
Nigel McCourry

Nigel McCourry couldn’t sleep, and when he did, the nightmares about what he’d done in Iraq would wake him up.

McCourry, who had been there as a lance corporal in a weapons platoon in the U.S. Marine Corps, would stand at the window of his apartment in Asheville, N.C., until 4 or 5 in the morning, convinced someone was coming to get him.
San Francisco Chronicle
May 24, 2015

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The Second Coming of Psychedelics
Inside the mind-tripping, soul-changing, ground-shifting, 21st century therapy.

Ric Godfrey had the shakes. At night, his body temperature would drop and he’d start to tremble. During the day, he was jumpy. He was always looking around, always on edge. His vibe scared the people around him. He couldn’t hang on to a job.

He started drinking and drugging, anything to numb out.

Years passed before a Department of Veterans Affairs counselor told him he had severe posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The former Marine had spent the early 1990s interrogating prisoners in Kuwait. Years later, he was still playing out the Persian Gulf War.

Counseling helped a little, but the symptoms continued. He went to rehab for his substance abuse, then tried Alcoholics Anonymous. “That went on for 10 years,” he said. “I don’t know how many times I hit rock bottom.”
Spirituality & Health
January-February 2013

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To Forgive and

mom and meA son confronts his birth and his mother’s death.

Having a parent with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia can be a painfully long and sad way to say good-bye. It also reaffirms the adage about laughing to keep from crying. After my mother’s memory became seriously impaired, my older sister and I never knew how much of Mom would be there when we visited her at the assisted living facility. She changed from moment to moment, which is how she lived the final months of her life, from moment to moment. Buddhists spend their whole lives trying to live in the moment. By that standard, Mom was enlightened.

Her existence in the moment also provided my sister and me with a running comedy routine, one that was both funny and tragic. One minute my mother would introduce me to the other ladies in the unit as “my son, Don.” Two minutes later, she’d turn to me and say, “Where did we meet?”

Where did we meet? Actually, it’s a good question.
California Magazine
Spring, 2013
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Mitt Romney and the Mormon Song and Dance

Election shows how far religion has come.

The last thing we heard before the lights went down and “The Book of Mormon” began was the couple behind us saying, “They are only two electoral votes apart.”

“Who's winning?” the wife asked.
“Romney,” the husband sighed.
It was election night at the Pantages Theatre, and there were more than the usual number of smartphones glowing inside this old gem of a playhouse at the corner of Hollywood and Vine.

One of the first-act songs in this dazzlingly irreverent musical comedy (which previews Tuesday and opens an already sold-out monthlong run Wednesday at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco) is a lullaby promising that tomorrow will be “Latter Day.”

“Evening star shines brightly/ God makes life anew/ Tomorrow is a latter day/ I am here for you.”
San Francisco Chronicle
November 25, 2012
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Chasing the Divine

Huston Smith and the seekers of Trabuco Canyon.

Huston Smith was at Berkeley working on his Ph.D. in 1945 when he stumbled upon the work of Gerald Heard, a British writer and philosopher—a man who would later be called “the grandfather of the New Age movement.”

Smith, who would later write The World’s Religions, a book first published in 1958 and still widely used as a religious studies text, had come to Berkeley from Chicago in 1944 with his wife, Kendra, and their daughter, Karen. He was already an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church and spent his weekends down on the Monterey Peninsula, where he had a part-time job leading Sunday services at a small church with a congregation composed mainly of local cannery workers.
California Magazine
Articles of Faith
Spring, 2011

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The New Believers

the new believers
A surprising number of Asian Students are drawn to the supportive structure of
evangelical congregations.

Christian rock music blasts through the open doors of the Student Union as hundreds of Asian-American undergrads clamber up the stairs to a packed Pauley Ballroom. It’s the annual New Student Welcome Night hosted by three campus ministries run by Gracepoint Fellowship Church, a fast-growing Berkeley congregation that has redefined what it means to be a Christian at Cal in the early years of the new millennium.
California Magazine
Fall, 2009

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A Prophet in Purgatory

Photo by Trent Nelson

Will throwing the book at poly-gamist Warren Jeffs bust up his sect or be a boon to it?
San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, Nov. 19, 2006
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The Truth About “Big Love”

Photo by Lacey Terrell

“Big Love,” the HBO series, is a big hit among some dissident members of Jeffs' sect, the
largest of several polygamist factions that refuse to accept the mainstream Mormon Church's long-standing decision to renounce the practice of plural marriage.

San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, June 10, 2007

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Gay Monogamous Couple
are Brains Behind Polygamy Show

Photo by Ron Batzdorff

Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, the screenwriting team that created “Big Love,” don't have a personal interest in Mormonism or polygamy, but they do know something about family lifestyles outside the American mainstream
San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, June 10, 2007
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Pioneering Clergy of Diverse Religions Embrace Psychedelics
It sounds like the setup for an irreverent joke.
A rabbi, a Protestant preacher and two priests walk into a room and are given a hefty serving of magic mushrooms

But it’s not a gag, and what happened next was anything but irreverent.

Rabbi Zac Kamenetz, Lutheran pastor James Lindberg, and Episcopal priests Roger Joslin and Hunt Priest were among some two dozen “psychedelically naive” religious professionals who participated in a yet-to-be published study by researchers at Johns Hopkins and NYU.
April 20, 2022
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Couples on Ecstasy
couples on ecstasy Marriage Is Driving Some
To Drugs And It May Not Be
A Bad Thing

Writer Ayelet Waldman was teaching a class on drug policy reform at UC Berkeley when she and her husband, the popular novelist Michael Chabon, decided that MDMA, the illegal party drug fueling those all-night raves, might also be a medicine that could save their marriage. They got the idea after Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, the psychedelic chemist and so-called “godfather of ecstasy,” spoke to her class.

That was about a decade ago. Since then, the couple have gone off once every few years for two-night getaways on the California coast, something Waldman calls “our marriage-recharging ritual.”

“We get up, go for a hike, and when we’re on our way back, about a half-hour from the hotel, we take the pills,” said Waldman, a former federal court public defender. “Then, for the next six hours, we talk about our relationship. When I tell my women friends about this, they softly say, ‘Yes.’ The men all go ‘Noooo!!!’”
California Magazine/
Huffington Post
February 15, 2017
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Remembrance Lessons learned from
Huston Smith’s exploration
of religious experience

When I heard the news that the beloved religion scholar Huston Smith had died at his home in Berkeley, my mind drifted back to the lively conversations we’d had over the years sitting across from each other in armchairs near the light-filled bay window of his Colusa Street bungalow.

Most of my professional career was spent as the religion reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. Toward the end of my time covering the “Godbeat,”
I lived in my own Berkeley bungalow just a short walk from the home Smith shared with his wife, Kendra. Smith didn’t do email, and his hearing impairments made telephone conversations difficult. So
when you wanted to interview Professor Smith, even on a tight newspaper deadline, you did it face-to-face.
Religion News Service
January 6, 2017
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Transcending depression without a script
Antidepressants Leveled Out the Highs and Lows. So I Found Ways to Supercharge Them – To Fully Experience the Agony and the Ecstasy. And that Feels Better. . .

“Didn’t the people in Brazil warn you about antidepressants and ayahuasca?” my friend asked as we sat down at the sushi bar in Berkeley. She’d already had several revelatory nights drinking the psychedelic tea with a Peruvian shaman.
“Not a word,” I replied.
“Well, you need to stop your antidepressants seven weeks before you try ayahuasca. Otherwise, it could kill you.”
I dropped my chopsticks.
“Seven weeks!” I exclaimed.
“The retreat is in three weeks and I have a nonrefundable plane ticket.”
My friend reached across the table and touched my arm. “If I were you,” she said, “I’d wait.”
Waiting is not something
I do well
Spirituality Health
September / October 2015
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Former ‘Jesus freak’ traces the evolution of Christian rock
bob dylan
Bob Gersztyn owned a fine collection of 300 rock ‘n’ roll albums in 1971, the year he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lorand Savior. Among them were some choice 1960s vinyl from Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Mothers of Invention.

But all of a sudden, this was the devil’s music.

“I destroyed some of them with a hammer and took the rest to a used record store,” he recalled with a laugh. “I think I kept 10 classical music albums that I decided were not anti-Christian.”

Today, at age 65, Gersztyn’s religious fervor has mellowed; he rarely attends church and calls himself “an allegorical Christian.” But he has put together his love of pop music and photography to publish an illustrated, two-volume work titled “Jesus Rocks the World — The Definitive History of Contemporary Christian Music.”
Washington Post
April 17, 2013

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Esalen Institute
Like countless spiritual pilgrims, Esalen Institute
faces its own midlife crisis

Perched atop the rugged splendor of the California coast south of Monterey, the Esalen Institute is the mother church for people who call themselves “spiritual but not religious.” Over the last five decades, hundreds of thousands of seekers have come to this incubator of East-meets-West spirituality looking for news ways to bring together body, mind, psyche and soul.

But today, as this iconic hot springs spa and retreat center celebrates its 50th birthday, a bitter dispute has broken out over its future. Like the many “seminarians” who come here after losing a spouse or a job, Esalen now faces its own midlife crisis.
Washington Post
May 29, 2012
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Studying the art of gratitude

Are we in the middle of a gratitude movement? Evidence suggests so.

Publishers can't seem to print enough books with the words “gratitude” or “gratefulness” in the title. Scientists rake in millions of dollars in grants to study how feelings of gratitude might improve physical health and psychological well-being. And this weekend, hundreds are expected to attend a Pathways to Gratefulness conference at the Palace of Fine Arts to talk about cultivating gratefulness in their lives.
San Francisco Chronicle Datebook Page E - 1
Monday, June 18, 2012
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Leary's Legacy
california magazine
People still have issues with the Sixties.

It was a decade of idealism and divisiveness. Three years into the decade, Bob Dylan railed against mothers and fathers throughout the land. Don’t criticize what you can’t understand. Jim Morrison proclaimed we want the world, and we want it … now. Much of this can be explained by demographics and the arrogance of youth. Then there were the drugs, especially the psychedelic drugs.
California Magazine
Fall, 2010

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Choosing to be Chosen

Religious leaders gather
to challenge notions 
of “Who is a Jew?”

Rabbi Capers Funnye, the spiritual leader of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew  Congregation in Chicago, doesn't look  Jewish—at least to some Jewish eyes.
California Magazine
July/August, 2008

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