Sacred Sessions at the Oude Kerk

Some years ago, I was laughed out of an epistemology class for suggesting that intuition was a reasonable source of knowledge. I learned then that life’s incalculable mysteries weren’t often taken seriously in academia. So, despite my decade-long training in spiritual care, I kept matters of my heart-soul-spirit (whatever you want to call it) out of my scholarly work.

But the intensity of political and ecological pressures has worn down the barriers I set up between my intellect and spirituality. When I hear research plans based only on logic and technical solutions, I can’t help but think about how lifeless they seem. We need something more vibrant to tend to these turbulent times.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this. In March I recited a poem at Studium Generale’s For Love of the World: Philosophy, Art and Technology conference and found myself surrounded by others delighted to have the soul and spirit included in intellectual conversations. No one booed speaker Andreas Weber off stage when he asked everyone to put their hands on their chests and listen to their inner-wisdom. In fact, I think people felt relieved that someone had finally addressed their hearts.

The SG gathering gave me the boost I needed to begin a project I’d dreamt of for years: to host gatherings that blend collective reflection and contemplative practice in a sacred space, where religious and non-religious alike felt welcome. This idea emerged as I noticed many in my generation cultivating a spiritual life through solo meditations with sound cancelling headphones on. Sometimes therapy and wellness culture takes on a religious-like presence in people’s lives, as well. I benefit from both meditation and therapy, but it’s not enough. We need to gather together, beyond one-on-one paid appointments and meditation apps, to collectively explore life’s sacredness.

Luckily the director of Delft’s Oude and Nieuwe Kerk, Nyncke Graafland – van den Berg, also sees this need and has offered the Oude Kerk as a space to gather. The Sacred Sessions begin with five evenings inspired by summertime abundance. Each session blends art, philosophy, and contemplative exercises (think: breathwork, body scans, walking meditations, and deep listening) to explore one of the following themes: attention, creativity, beauty, heart-wisdom, and mystery (the latter with For the Love of the World speaker, Joost Vervoort). All of this is infused with playful curiosity. Spiritual inquiry needn’t be too solemn!

At the very least, the Sacred Sessions provide 75 calm phoneless minutes alongside like-hearted people in the Oude Kerk. Not so bad, right?

I hope you’ll join us.

Madelaine Ley is a PhD Candidate in Philosophy and Ethics of Technology at the Faculty of Technology Policy and Management. Her thesis explores care and carelessness across robotic supply chains, ultimately calling for an upheaval of modern food systems. Her defense is in fall 2024.