The Secret History And Strange Future Of Charisma

Refael Idan Suissa for Noema Magazine How our culture, politics and technology became infused with a mysterious social phenomenon that everyone can feel but nobody can explain. BY JOE ZADEH In 1929, one of Germany’s national newspapers ran a picture story featuring globally influential people who, the headline proclaimed, “have become legends.” It included the former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin and India’s anti-colonialist leader Mahatma Gandhi. Alongside them was a picture of a long-since-forgotten German poet. His name was Stefan George, but to those under his influence he was known as “Master.” George was 61 years … Continue reading The Secret History And Strange Future Of Charisma

If ghosts are real, then they aren’t supernatural

If something exists, it is by definition natural. KEY TAKEAWAYS Don Lincoln Long before humanity learned to write, stories were told about spirits and demons and things that go bump in the night. Similar stories are told today involving religious beliefs, extrasensory perception, auras, miracles, and ghosts, just to name a few. I’m a scientist, and therefore it should surprise no one that I am skeptical of all such beliefs. In conversations with people who embrace them, I will point to inconsistencies in their ideas, or to reasons why I don’t accept their conclusions. Often these conversations will conclude with … Continue reading If ghosts are real, then they aren’t supernatural

A thickness in the air

Photo by Gueorgui Pinkhassov/Magnum The spooky sensation that someone or something else is right there haunts us all. But what does this felt presence mean? Ben Alderson-Day is an associate professor and member of the developmental science research group at Durham University, UK. He is also a fellow of the Institute for Medical Humanities and the Wolfson Institute for Health and Wellbeing. His most recent book is Presence: The Strange Science and True Stories of the Unseen Other (2023). Sarah was in her late teens when it first happened. A normal Thursday, it was early morning and pitch-black outside. The wind rattled … Continue reading A thickness in the air

How to Be Your Own Soulmate

Using Thich Nhat Hanh’s Three Powers to heal our relationship with ourselves  By Sister Dang Nghiem To know that innately we have great powers, and that we can cultivate them in our daily lives, is truly empowering. I’d like to share with you Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching on the Three Powers—the most potent antidote to the feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, uncertainty, vulnerability, and confusion that many of us are suffering from. The first power is the power of understanding. In 2001, a 12-year-old girl came to our Plum Village Practice Center in France. Her father was an alcoholic and gave herdrinks from the time … Continue reading How to Be Your Own Soulmate

A new paganism

Mit dem Adler (‘With the Eagle’) (1918) by Paul Klee. Zentrum Paul Klee. Photo by AKG Now is the time to revitalise our relationship with nature and immerse ourselves in the little wonders of the universe Ed Simon is the executive director of Belt Media Collaborative and the editor-in-chief for Belt Magazine; a contributing editor for the History News Network; and a staff writer at the literary site The Millions. His books include the anthology The God Beat: What Journalism Says about Faith and Why It Matters (2021), co-edited with Costica Bradatan; Binding the Ghost: Theology, Mystery, and the Transcendence of Literature (2022); and Pandemonium: A Visual … Continue reading A new paganism

Are coincidences real?

Photo by Ernst Haas/Getty I am an unequivocal rationalist and yet I still want to see something strange and wonderful in life’s weird coincidences Paul Broks is an English neuropsychologist-turned-freelance writer. His work has appeared in Prospect, The Times and The Guardian, among others. He is the author of Into the Silent Land (2002) and The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars: a Neuropsychologist’s Odyssey Through Consciousness (2018). He lives in Bath, UK. In the summer of 2021, I experienced a cluster of coincidences, some of which had a distinctly supernatural feel. Here’s how it started. I keep a journal and record dreams if they are especially … Continue reading Are coincidences real?

Stuck with the soul

Young Woman on a Stool (detail, 1909) by Léon Spilliaert. Private collection, photo by Getty The idea of the soul is obviously a nonsense, yet its immaterial mysterious nature has deep hooks in the human psyche David P Barash is an evolutionary biologist and emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle. His most recent books are Peace and Conflict Studies (5th ed, 2022), with Charles P Webel, Threats: Intimidation and Its Discontents (2020) and Through a Glass Brightly: Using Science to See Our Species as We Really Are (2018), plus, with his wife, the psychiatrist Judith Eve Lipton, Strength Through Peace: How Demilitarization Led … Continue reading Stuck with the soul

In the West, yoga is exercise. In the East, it is something much bigger

Yoga is more than just standing on your head. It’s about uniting with the divine. KEY TAKEAWAYS By Alexandra Keeler While yoga has become a trendy lifestyle and wellness practice in North America, its roots are ancient, spiritual, and profound. Originally developed in Hinduism, yoga provides a path to achieve a higher state of consciousness and to unite with the divine. The Sanskrit word yoga literally translates to “to yoke,” derived from the root word yiuj which means “to join,” “to integrate,” or “to harness.” The word yoga was first mentioned in one of the oldest texts known to humanity, the Rig Veda. The Rig Veda is … Continue reading In the West, yoga is exercise. In the East, it is something much bigger

Restoring Dignity to Our Animal Kin

Anthropologist Amanda Stronza reflects on death, grief, and the profound interconnections between animals and humans. By Lauren Krauze  Is there a disconnect between what we love and how we live? For the last thirty years, anthropologist Amanda Stronza has been investigating this question through her studies of the relationships between humans and animals. Her research and work in applied conservation have taken her around the world, from Botswana to the Amazon, where she has investigated what influences humans to care about and interact with certain species the way we do.  In recent years, Stronza has become known for her practice of rescuing … Continue reading Restoring Dignity to Our Animal Kin

Emptiness Explained

The Middle Way of Nagarjuna, one of Mahayana Buddhism’s greatest philosophers By Filip Holm When people think of Buddhism, they tend to picture meditative practices. But what many tend to forget is that Buddhism has a tremendously rigorous philosophical tradition, and its thinkers have contributed immensely to philosophy across history. Of these Buddhist philosophers, few—perhaps none—have been as influential as the 3rd-century logician Nagarjuna. Sometimes considered the “Second Buddha,” Nagarjuna presented a novel approach to the core Buddhist doctrine of emptiness, or shunyata, that would become central to the development of Mahayana Buddhism. In fact, his most famous work, the Mulamadhyamakakarika (“Root Verses on the … Continue reading Emptiness Explained