Spirituality


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Photo posed by a model. Phillip Suddick/Getty

Essay/
Philosophy of mind
The problem of mindfulness

Mindfulness promotes itself as value-neutral but it is loaded with (troubling) assumptions about the self and the cosmos

Sahanika Ratnayake

Alan Watts: 'Half monk and half racecourse operator.' Illustration by Stephen Collins

Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
Off-beat Zen

How I found my way out of depression, thanks to the writings of the English priest who brought Buddhism to the West

Tim Lott

Stop and think. Hand of an old statue of Buddha in Laos. Photo by Nicolas Beaumont/ASAblanca via Getty
Essay/
Spirituality
Does meditation work?

It’s hailed as the panacea for everything from cancer to war. Does research into its efficacy meet scientific standards?

Ute Kreplin

Lowlier than thou: 'animals possess an unexamined wisdom where true belief is concerned.' Photo by Christopher Anderson
Essay/
Philosophy of religion
The atheist paradox

Now that Christianity is the dominant religion on the planet, it is unbelievers who have most in common with Christ

Adam Roberts

A seance in Paris, circa 1900. Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty

Essay/
Death
Life after death

The idea of life after death lives on in near-death experiences and messages from beyond the grave. What’s the evidence?

Jesse Bering

True love: more made than found. Rome, 1994. Photo by Steve McCurry/Magnum

Essay/
History of ideas
What is love?

Forget the modern romantic notion of ‘the one’. True love means looking beyond the couple and out towards life

Mark Vernon

US Marines from Charlie Company at work in the north east of Fallujah, Iraq, November 17, 2004. Photo by Jerome Sessini/Magnum

Essay/
War and peace
The unforgiven

When soldiers kill in war, the secret shame and guilt they bring back home can destroy them

Kevin Sites

Aldous Huxley in 1958. Photo by Philippe Halsman/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of religion
Perennial philosophy

Aldous Huxley argued that all religions in the world were underpinned by universal beliefs and experiences. Was he right?

Jules Evans

Woodswoman author Anne LaBastille, far from the madding crowd. Photo by Robert Thomas/National Geographic
Essay/
Gender
She wants to be alone

When even a simple stroll down the sidewalk is an exercise in self-loathing, why don’t more women run away to the woods?

Rhian Sasseen

Photo by Dennis Stock/Magnum
Essay/
Philosophy of religion
What is nirvana?

Liberating oneself from rebirths might seem irrelevant to the non-believer. But nirvana is also a profound psychological goal

Robert Wright

Photo by Paul Fusco/Magnum
Essay/
Cognition and intelligence
Immortality instinct

We have this powerful sense that death is a transition, not an end. Why can’t we imagine a world without us?

Natalie Emmons

‘For what we are about to receive’. Children saying Grace, London, 1940s. Photo Hulton/Getty
Essay/
Ethics
The God decision

Christian parents teach their children to believe in God, atheists teach them not to. Who is doing the right thing?

Michael Ruse

Saint George and the Dragon (c1909-10), by Odilon Redon. Courtesy the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

Essay/
History of ideas
Against disenchantment

The move away from myth and toward reason is an ancient human impulse. But must enchantment be the enemy of enlightenment?

Jason Josephson Storm

  Erotic ‘Spring Picture’, Ming Dynasty, 16th century, China, artist unknown. Courtesy Wikimedia

Essay/
Sex and sexuality
Anti-climax

Coitus reservatus is an ancient technique promising bliss and longevity. Does orgasm data back up these tantric ideas?

Peter von Ziegesar

Photo by Harry Gruyaert/Magnum

Essay/
Stories and literature
Sweetness and strangeness

In our image-saturated, over-sped world, we are losing the imaginative power to create and find meaning through metaphor

Heather Altfeld & Rebecca Diggs

Grandfather, author and President R Venkataraman. Photo supplied by the author
Essay/
Childhood and adolescence
The wanderer

My grandfather was a legend – a holy vagabond whose life spanned India’s 20th century. Why did I let him elude me?

Samanth Subramanian

Dowser King Faria, a former dairy farmer, during a drought in Marin County, California. February 2nd, 1977. Photo by Bettmann/Corbis
Essay/
Ecology and environmental sciences
Climate of doubt

Devastated by years of drought, California farmers hire dowsers to locate their water, exposing the power of belief

Lois Parshley

Canang saris in Bali. Photo by Damian Haas/EyeEm/Getty.

Essay/
Rituals and celebrations
Daily grace

Everyday rituals are ephemeral prayers, a hint to the gods for protection, encircling life like a fragrant garland

Jay Griffiths

A sailfish pictured off Isla Mujeres, on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Photo by Alastair Pollock Photography
Essay/
Death
The sailfish

Just after my father died an uncanny diving encounter with a giant sailfish spoke to me of life’s mysterious connections

Tim Ecott

Burning Man festival, Black Rock City, Nevada, 2002. Photo by Cristina Garcia Rodero/Magnum Photos

Essay/
Subcultures
The big empty

How an impossibly flat expanse of absofreakinglutely nothing inspires creativity and transformation at Burning Man

Graham St John

Haunted tech; William Hope’s spirit photographs were popular after World War One when the bereaved were desperate to find loved ones living beyond the grave. Photo by SSPL/Getty

Essay/
Death
The rise of the creepynet

With the rise of the internet has come a popular surge in people looking to be freaked out. Why?

Rhian Sasseen

A stairway in Tutankhamun’s tomb, c.1925. Photo Hulton Archive/Getty
Essay/
History
The mummy’s curse

It came from an Egyptian tomb… Well no, actually, it didn’t. But once a myth lurches into life, there’s no stopping it

Jo Marchant