In contemporary America, “spirituality” tends to fall into two very broad buckets: religious/theistic (i.e. traditional), and not-religious/metaphysical (i.e. a grab bag of, well, almost anything else). There is, however, a third, barely known type of spirituality called “religious naturalism,” or, in my case, contemplative naturalism. This is a spirituality grounded in the modern scientific narrative of cosmic and terrestrial evolution, without reference to supernatural beings or metaphysics. Just physics—well, and with a deep sense of awe, wonder and reverence for the beauty and complexity of nature. What good, though, is this sort of “spirituality” when one is flattened by the suffering and traumas of life? As one who has lived with chronic pain for 30 years and who, quite recently lost my daughter to suicide, what consolation—really—is there in a universe without gods or entities, “energies,” or life after death? Could a purely natural scientific worldview actually offer “existential consolation” in the darkest hours of our most personal pain? The answer, at least for me, is yes.
About the Presenter
Jay E. Valusek is a Registered Psychotherapist in private practice, specializing in chronic pain self-rehabilitation and suicide grief support, counseling and education. He earned master’s degree in both earth science and adult education. In addition to professional training in Group Spiritual Direction and Contemplative Retreat & Group Leadership, he has undergone training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Positive Psychology Coaching, and Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. At one time, Jay was a candidate for the Episcopal priesthood. Recently, for two years he was employed by Longmont United Hospital, but in the wake of his daughter’s suicide, he returned to private practice. Jay is the author of three spiritual autobiographies, including The Secret Sorrow: A Memoir of Mourning the Death of God (2010). He has published contemplative poetry in Tiferet Journal and an article on spiritual direction without God in Presence, the journal of Spiritual Directors International. Prior to his career as a helping professional, he was a geoscientist and award-winning writer. Jay has been fascinated by the interface between science and spirituality for over 40 years.