An Inclusive, Interdisciplinary Approach to Spirituality Without Dogma or Religion
Alchemical Dialogues - from Lead to Gold
Alchemical Dialogues are live and unscripted conversations recorded on Zoom brought to you by the great folks of Amber Light International. We choose topics from our current social and cultural climate, with an emphasis on humanism and spirituality. In a cross-collaboration with both Lisa Carley's new podcast The Labyrinth, and Joel Lesses' Unraveling Religion podcast, we have begun posting 'Selected, Best of The Labyrinth' and 'Selected, Best of Unraveling Religion' episodes on Alchemical Dialogues. We continue to promote conversations that evolve our understanding of the vital topics of spirituality, the humanities, psychology, and The Arts and deepen community through this mutual support. Please check these out! If you would like to participate in our podcast, please contact us using this form.
When the edited audio podcasts are released, announcements and links are sent out to our general mailing list, and posted on our Facebook and Instagram pages. You can subscribe to Alchemical Dialogues on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, or search for us in your favorite podcast app.
This conversation with Lisa Carley, host of the podcast The Labyrinth and Unraveling Religion’s Joel Lesses explore the podcast ‘The Labyrinth’ and its slogan ‘Destination Unknown’ and its relationship to the ‘Unraveling Religion’ podcast, whose own slogan ‘What You Are Is More Than What You Want.’ These two old friends share a deep vision of hope and work toward a brighter future as they deconstruct meaning, mission, and purpose, and the mechanisms of what comprises the most vital aspects of life and relationship. In this brief discussion, Lisa and Joel outline the parallel journey of spirituality and curiosity that forms the basis of their timeless bond.
In Part 3 Lisa, Rich, and Joel examine the secret to the existential dilemma and how to resolve it. The answer, ‘service.’ Also, surfing and meditation and the story of Reb Zusha, a Hasidic Master. A Jewish Kabbalistic look at death, judgment, and Heavenly Decrees, ultimately who judges us? Does human life have spiritual veils and what do they hide? Also discussed is American Zen Buddhism and the two most influential books in American Zen, ‘Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind’ and ‘The Three Pillars of Zen.’ From Zen Mind, Beginner Mind, ‘The basic teaching of Buddhism is the teaching of transcency or change.’ and ‘That everything changes is the basic truth for each existence.’ What actually determines the quality of our life: is it what we receive from others, or what we give to others? What is our relationship to Death? What are we forced to let go of in life and what returns to us in the future? These explorations build into a final poem Lisa wrote and reads.
In Part 2, Lisa, Rich, and Joel explore knowing the ‘why’ and knowing the ‘big picture’ versus being in the flow of life. The talk continues in the examination of life asking ‘What is being asked of me? What do I need to learn about this situation? What do I need to perceive in this situation?’ Also, asking questions of life, and responding to life’s obstacles in a way that challenges our mental health and our existential paradigm, and the relationship to reconstructing ourselves, Phoenix-like, after allowing ourselves to ‘fall apart.’ Deeper into the conversation, the topic of the Existential Abyssand Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and Heidegger, and looking at ‘being true to [oneself] in the deepest possible sense.’ The talk opens to the complexities and wonders of being human. Finally, existentially reassembling ourselves and its relationship to mental health and mental health distress.
In Part 1 of this three part episode, Joel lassoed Rich Grego and Lisa Carleyinto a conversation recorded weaving threads through time and space and love, itself. This conversation meanders among these three old, dear friends, and touches on nihilism, dissolution and romanticism, Dharma decay andDharma renewal, changes and transformations. Is there room for Hope in the world today? Optimism? Does the state of the world allow a falling away so that things might improve, a sense something better might come. What does Enlightenment look like? What does Enlightenment feel like? In this deeply intimate talk, Rich, Lisa, and Joel explore aspects of the existential path requiring courage and bravery, and the conversation deconstructs aspects of the work required to build a strong existence or spiritual foundation. Lisa, Rich, and Joel examine challenging and evolving social constructs, darkness versus light, mission and meaning and purpose, how do we find mission meaning and purpose? Asking ‘how’ versus asking ‘why?’ Fundamentally, what makes us feel we are far from where we should be, what makes us feel we are far from ‘home.’ Richard Grego is Professor of philosophy and cultural history at FSCJ. His research interests focus on cross-cultural themes in religion and science— including philosophy of mind, comparative world religions/world civilizations, and the metaphysical – theological implications of theoretical physics and cosmology. His publications have included studies in the history- philosophy of science and conceptions of nature in the history of western philosophy, as well as cross-cultural perspectives on mind/ consciousness in western philosophy – psychology and the neo-Vedanta Hindu tradition. Prior to his academic career, he was a criminal investigator-polygraph examiner for the Florida Office of the Public Defender and in the private sector Instructor at the Criminal Justice Institute and International Academy of Polygraph Science in Florida, and national... View Article
Joy Harjo and Joel connect in this dusted off, older episode, to open and discuss our shared human experience in its different forms and the pervading spirit found in mountains and rivers, water and air, in people and the Earth. The shared community we live in calls us to understand our actions affect others and the Earth. Joy and Joel discuss spirituality, Joy’s history and development as an artist, shared responsibility for our communities, Native teachings, Buddhism, Joy’s plays, music, poetry, and art. Also discussed were generational influences and wisdom and how in years past there was a closer connection to our heart and mind. Joy and Joel also discuss the intelligence of the body and how common sense is spirituality, expressed. Joy and Joel share many aspects of spirituality and life, and conclude reflecting on Joy’s Eagle Poem. The end of the talk mentions Maj Ragain and A Gathering of Poets commemorating in 1990 the 20th anniversary of the shootings at Kent State, which introduced Joel to Joy Harjo’s work. Biography of Joy Harjo: Joy Harjo, the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, is a member of the Mvskoke Nation and belongs to Oce Vpofv (Hickory Ground). As a poet, activist, and musician, Joy Harjo’s work has won countless awards. In 2019, Harjo became the first Native American United States Poet Laureate in history and is only the second poet to be appointed for three terms. In addition to her many books of poetry, she has written several books for young audiences and released seven award-winning music albums. Harjo is a founding board member and Chair of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and, in 2019, was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She has since been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, National... View Article
Dusted off as one of Unraveling Religion’s original episodes back in 2008, Activist and Poet Chris Barbera joins Joel for a talk exploring the landscape of our collective sorrows and how to address them. The terrain covers the root response to suffering found in exploring spirituality. The question of ‘work’ and how work is defined was answered. Chris begins with his own expressed spiritual development and biography, culminating with a deep awakening in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. The realization placed for Chris the understanding of the inequality of systems of power against many of its marginalized citizens, mainly due to the drive to consume and commoditize, an unexamined priorities, in our nation and world. These power structures have sought to accumulate wealth and power, and in the talk Chris and Joel also explore the validities of all the world’s religions. Chris came to realize G-d is not an idea but a living Reality. Through the talk, Chris and Joel discuss how these systems criminalize the poor. Also examined were ways to alleviate suffering, guided by various spiritual doctrines, and searching ‘where does G-d fit into all of this?’ The differences of science and religion, and how the ancient cultures made no distinction between the two. A profound examination of humankind’s direction, hope, and potential outcome. Biography of Chris Barbera: Chris Barbera has lived in the backs of empty churches and intentional communities and worked on various social justice movements and has, for many years, administered an educational nonprofit, Jesus the Liberator Seminary of Religious Justice, which focuses upon developing a “Prison Theology” with people incarcerated. He currently lives intentionally at the interfaith nonprofit, Network of Religious Communities. In short, he has lived and worked with poor people at the intersection of grassroots justice movements, spiritually lived ideas and... View Article
Two friends find meaning in discussing life and reveal kindness as the lasting binding element; is it Plato or Aristotle? It is only how we define love that matters, because only love endures forever. Richard Wicka shares Sartre’s ‘The Wall’ Joel Lesses shares a Chasidic Tale ‘The Rabbi’s Gift’ each finds newness in understanding because this evening we were not alone, we shared an evening walk. Bio: Richard Wicka is a Buffalo, N.Y.-based media artist and photographer and the proprietor of “The Home of the Future,”a media access center and production/recording studio based in his Kaisertown home. Wicka has been providing a forum for artists in all media, activists, and everyday citizens of his Western New York community since the mid-1970s. He provides interested parties with technical support, studio time, and production tools free of charge, encouraging them to express themselves in ways that mainstream culture has not historically sanctioned. With the advent of internet radio came ThinkTwice Radio in 2006, offering podcasts to anyone with a subject to discuss and the commitment to produce a regular show.
In 2015, in the wide expanse of spiritual and emotional terrain, before his passing in 2018, Maj Ragain, northeast Ohio’s poetic fixture and teacher sits with Joel to talk of spirituality and mentorship, sharing poems, talking of tenderness and eroticism and the flux of life, ‘all rivers run to the sea.’ Bio: Maj Ragain was born into a small, southeastern Illinois farm town. Home-tutored and raised on Vernor Lake, he earned a BA in English at Eastern Illinois University, and an MA in English at the University of Illinois. He has been on faculty, off and on, at Kent State University since 1969, where he obtained his PhD in 1990. He is the author of seven chapbooks of poetry and five book-length collections, all of which contribute to Clouds Pile Up in the North: New & Selected Poems. Maj had served for more than thirty years as host to open poetry readings in Kent, monthly, downtown, mentoring hundreds of poets through the years.
In this brief talk, Joel describes the origins and purpose of Unraveling Religion, reviewing some of the guests and giving an overall flavor of what Unraveling Religion examines through its conversations.
Listen to and share our latest podcast with Joel Lesses. Henry and Joel discuss lessons from lived experience with mental health distress, including:• lessons from trauma• isolation, loneliness• marginalization• existential crisis• how mental health distress may be a calling to become a healer leader and teacher in community. Extracting lessons and asking the ‘why’ slowly begins to uncover answers, reveals meaning and purpose, calls us to understanding and wisdom of life’s deeper questions. There, passions reveal themselves, including for Joel poetry, spirituality and mysticism. Education Training Center (https://www.joellesses.com), Joel’s agency seeks to address areas of need for individuals marginalized by mental health, trauma, and psychological distress without distinction to cause. Joel Lesses founded the Education Training Center as a means of counseling people marginalized by trauma, addiction, and psychological distress, and its effects including incarceration, homelessness, and institutionalization. He is dedicated to reframing mental health distress as a potential spiritual marker and existential opportunity. Also, vested in Poetry and Literature as an educator and poet, through writing workshops, poetry roundtables, poetry, and a manuscript. Finally, other passions include the intersection of poetry, spirituality, science, and phenomenology shared and disparate in the human experience, and transformative power of self inquiry and introspection through contemplative and meditative practices explored in his podcast, ‘Unraveling Religion’ mystical and practical discussions as an exploration of spirituality and its relation to religion and psychology. Joel was nominated and voted previously ‘Buffalo’s Best Poet’; he has been published in various magazines and publications, founded Ground and Sky Poetry Series, and facilitated numerous poetry workshops. Currently, he is working on an autobiography of poetry and prose entitled ‘Odyssey of Autumn’s Breath: An American Collection and Life.’ He has worked as a healthcare administrator, trainer, facilitator, and consultant, leading the understanding in education treatment and advocacy regarding substance use,... View Article
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The opinions expressed by the guests in these podcasts are not necessarily the opinions of Amber Light International and anyone associated with this organization.