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Religious But Not Religious

Living a Symbolic Life
Paperback Book
Chiron Publications
May, 2021
$26.50 CAD
Publisher’s Description: 

In Religious but Not Religious, Jungian analyst Jason E. Smith explores the idea, expressed by C. G. Jung, that the religious sense is a natural and vital function of the human psyche. We suffer from its lack.

The symbolic forms of religion mediate unconscious and ineffable experiences to the field of consciousness that infuse our lives with meaning and purpose. That is why we cannot be indifferent toward the decline of traditional religious observance so widely discussed today. The great religions house the accumulated spiritual wisdom of humankind, and their loss would be catastrophic to the human soul.

As human beings, we hunger for spiritual experience. To be “spiritual but not religious” is one possible response, but it often doesn’t go far enough. All too easily it can become a kind of do-it-yourself spirituality, which lacks the capacity to effect the kind of growth and transformation that is the true goal of all the religious traditions.

Smith argues that we need to be “religious but not religious.” We need an approach to religion that recognizes the essential importance of the individual spiritual adventure while also affirming the value of collective religious tradition. He articulates an understanding of religion as a participation in the symbolic life as opposed to a mere content of belief. By recovering our personal sensitivity for symbolic experience together with a symbolic understanding of religion, we facilitate a profound encounter with life and with the human condition through which one may be tested, tried, and transformed.

“Jason Smith brilliantly raises the reader’s sophistication in navigating the varied, often contentious, landscape of contemporary religious understandings.  He demonstrates that we are inherently religious creatures, and only a participation in ‘the symbolic life’ can lift a modern out of the slough of materialism to a felt experience of meaning. Smith’s insights, nuanced explanations, and engagement of the heart are a gift for the reader.”

-James Hollis, Ph.D., Jungian Analyst in Washington, D.C. and author, most recently, Living Between Worlds: Finding Personal Resilience in Changing Times.

Religious but Not Religious is beautifully written and carries the reader into a reconsideration of the place of religion in modern life.  An antidote to the reductionism and narcissism that plague modern culture, this book reminds us of the necessity of our connection to something larger and shows us why symbol and ritual, and the proper attitude towards both, are eternally necessary for human health. 

–Gary S. Bobroff, MA, author of Carl Jung: Knowledge in a Nutshell

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