Wesley J. Wildman and Kate J. Stockly
St. Martin’s Press, 400 pages
In the age of the internet (particularly during a pandemic) we have sought ways to stay connected – to our friends, our families and our religious communities – and so we have all integrated technology into our lives in some way. With the help of smartphones, social media, streaming and more, we have multiple ways to communicate in the 21st century. But what if the limits of tech didn’t stop there? What if technology became so integrated into our society that it became the next step in our evolutionary process? What would happen if we began to mix the spiritual with the technological?
These questions and more are answered in Wesley Wildman and Kate Stockly’s newest book Spirit Tech. Together, with their extensive knowledge in the scientific study of religion, Wildman and Stockly connect with experts in neuroscience, theology, philosophy, spiritual experiences, entheogens and more to explore the fascinating advancement of spirituality and technology.
There is no question that technology has progressed our society in many ways, so it is unsurprising that some have incorporated spirituality into this domain. “Faith Tech” explores these budding industries — FUS (focused ultrasound transducers) that help one reach deep meditative states more quickly than with conventional methods, qEEG (Quantitative Electroencephalogram) technologies that can connect people through their brain waves (mind reading!), V.R. (virtual reality) spaces where communities of people can come together virtually to worship and even get baptized, and A.I. (artificial intelligence) that challenges our conception of “consciousness.” New research and technologies are even demystifying entheogens (plants with psychoactive attributes) such as ayahuasca, peyote and San Pedro.
What is fascinating about these technologies is that they are not something of a far-off future; they are already here, today. People around the world are employing tech to open their consciousness, reach enlightenment and experience the Divine. We hear a great deal about technology’s dangers, but the authors of Spirit Tech believe tech to be a tool that can help us create a better world. They write: “The leading advocates of spirit tech intend not only to heal and counterbalance the negative effects of technology but also to accelerate the awakening of each individual and to launch humanity into the next phase of its evolution … It’s a vision of a new type of culture, more humane, more connected, more peaceful, and more beautiful.”
This book is ideal for those interested and curious in the ever-changing landscape of spiritual and religious practice. It would interest religious and spiritual leaders alike and, in many cases, help introduce readers to the expansive field of spiritual experience and technology. Although I consider myself well-versed in the realm of faith and technology, much of this was new to me. The technical language employed in this book might intimidate some, but Spirit Tech is written for the layperson and remains accessible throughout. This book offers excellent resources for further reading, gives detailed appendixes for those wishing to learn more and would generally work well in either personal or group study contexts.
The future of religious and spiritual experience is already here, and it looks like Spirit Tech.
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Brandon Ouellette serves as pastor of Faith United Presbyterian Church in Monmouth, Illinois, as well as interim chaplain at Monmouth College.