Frequencies: A genealogy of spirituality

Frequencies, an Official Honoree of the 16th Annual Webby Awards, is an experiment that sought to create a collaborative genealogy of spirituality. Produced by The Immanent Frame and Killing the Buddha and curated by Kathryn Lofton and John Lardas Modern, the digital compendium gathers one hundred written entries and visual artworks that describe and represent expressions of “the spiritual.” At the outset of the project, the curators wrote:

Frequencies approaches spirituality as a cultural technology, as a diverse reverberation, as a frequency in the ether of experience. We begin in a moment when novelists wonder about the divine, psychological counselors advertise as spiritual advisers, and scholars seek to capture spirituality’s ephemeral nature through survey research. Spirituality abounds, even as it is unclear what it is. Whatever it is, it seems hard to capture. Spirituality takes hold beneath the skin and permeates below the radar of statistical surveys. It resists classification even as it classifies its evaluators and its believers as subjects of its sway.

Here, scholars respond to the project, considering its shape and contents, its limits and potentialities.

May 1st, 2012

Three dots and a dash

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“It resists classification…”

Language is a funny thing. Take my epigraph, for example: three words from the fourth paragraph of Frequencies’ project statement. I find these three words interesting—worth re-reading, even un-reading, rather than just reading—because of the contradiction that they carry along with them; for they unsay what it is that we think they just said.

Like I said, language is a funny thing.

Read Three dots and a dash.
April 25th, 2012

Traditional but not religious

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The first thing that strikes you when looking at Frequencies is the scope of the project and the breadth of contributions it includes. The breadth of the essays is truly amazing—people, events, places, books, a CD, ideas. The project covers a lot of ground. And just for the pleasure of reading some of these essays, I’m grateful and moved. I wonder, however, about two things. One is about form and one is about content. First, the question about form:  Is this a genealogy? Second, the question about content:  What are the avenues of spirituality that the project maps?

Read Traditional but not religious.
April 17th, 2012

The impossible road sign

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A friend recently sent me a Huffington Post piece from last summer on the state of New Hampshire putting up one of those road-sign historical markers to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the UFO abduction experience of the mixed racial couple, Betty and Barney Hill.

Read The impossible road sign.
April 10th, 2012

Get it on

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The first thing you notice about Frequencies is the sheer proliferation of categories, though they clearly are not categories in either the Hegelian or the quotidian sense. They are more like soundings into the depths of a shared darkness or lenses through which we might glimpse an otherwise blinding luminescence. Words cluster inside the frame of the screen, that ubiquitous medium through which we all present ourselves to ourselves. At the top is an index. On the side is a cloud of things called “resonances” and “wavelengths,” both terms nodding to Deleuzian technologies of circulation. And within we find an even 100 musings.

Read Get it on.
April 4th, 2012

Spirituality’s family tree

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Much more than a blog, Frequencies is a treasure trove of deep description and highly creative analysis. The casual observer initially might assume Frequencies to be a motley collection of unrelated reflections on matters ranging from historical figures to chicken sandwiches. Such an assumption could not be more foolhardy, however. The hundred essays that comprise Frequencies could not be more intimately related, as all of them, in their own ways, are part of the same family tree.

Read Spirituality’s family tree.
April 2nd, 2012

The fiercest love of all

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Reading the entries posted at Frequencies, an online project that alleges to be “a collaborative genealogy of spirituality,” brings out the bitchy side of my temperament.

When Thomas Tweed asks, “Is ‘spirituality’ a noun? A verb? Something else?,” I want to send him a pocket dictionary that he can consult in future moments of linguistic crisis, so that he does not produce overwrought prose that only calls attention to himself. (Confidential to TT: it’s a noun.)

Read The fiercest love of all.
March 15th, 2012

Besides

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I love the story about Shakeela Hassan. I just told it again last night, in fact. In the late 1950s, Shakeela Hassan arrives in the U.S. from Lahore, to begin a medical internship at Northwestern University. She is greeted at the airport by Malcolm X, a young minister in the Nation of Islam, who was sent to meet her because of a chance encounter between her brother-in-law and the NOI prophet, Elijah Muhammad. Her husband’s family is related to the Pakistani publishers of the most widely read English-language translation of the Qur’an, and although Shakeela Hassan never joins the Nation of Islam, she becomes a regular dinner guest at Elijah Muhammad’s home, a great admirer of his wife, Clara, and the improbable designer of the hats which become Elijah Muhammad’s trademark. As readers of Frequencies: A Collaborative Genealogy of Spirituality will know, this is a much-too-short version of the story Winnifred Sullivan recounts in her eponymous entry.

Read Besides.