The Power of Ritual by Casper ter Kuile: how wizards and gyms will make you more spiritual

Steph's Business Bookshelf Podcast

06-09-2020 • 17 mins

About the Book

“After half a decade of research and hundreds of conversations with people around the country, I am convinced we are in the midst of a paradigm shift. That what used to hold us in community no longer works, and that the spiritual offerings of yesteryear no longer help us thrive.”–Casper ter Kuile

What do Soul Cycle, gratitude journals, and tech breaks have in common? For ter Kuile they offer rituals that create the foundation for our modern spiritual lives.

We are in crisis today. Our modern technological society has left too many of us—no matter our ages—feeling isolated and bereft of purpose. Previous frameworks for building community and finding meaning no longer support us. Yet ter Kuile reveals a hopeful new message: we might not be religious, but that doesn’t mean we are any less spiritual.

The Power of Ritual reminds us that what we already do every day matters—and has the potential to become a powerful experience of reflection, sanctuary, and meaning.


About the Author

Casper ter Kuile is helping to build a world of joyful belonging.

He's the author of The Power of Ritual (2020), and co-host of the award-winning podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Casper is a Ministry Innovation Fellow at Harvard Divinity School and holds Masters of Divinity and Public Policy from Harvard University.

With his team at Sacred Design Lab, he co-authored the seminal paper How We Gather (2015) and his work has been featured in the New York Times, Atlantic Magazine, and Washington Post.

He and his husband Sean Lair live in Brooklyn, NY.


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BIG IDEA 1 (5:34) – Ritual is for everyone.

We all may already be partly doing ritual, but that doesn’t mean you’re already getting the benefits from it because ritual needs to be intentional and repeated. When we cook, eat, read, exercise or travel, all of these things can be turned into meaningful rituals.

Ritual is about the gaps you’d like to fill or identifying the connection or habits you lack. In the book, it says that rituals are for everyone because you don’t have to believe in anything to enjoy and create a ritual. It is about connection which is a necessity, not a luxury.

BIG IDEA 2 (7:53) – The four types of ritual.

  1. Connection with self – this can include sacred reading which is generally picking a fiction book and reading it and analysing it as if it is a sacred text. The other idea in this book is the Sabbath, or taking a weekly period of time to connect with yourself, preferably offline.
  2. Connection with others – there are two ideas in this ritual – eating with others and working out with others - and using these mediums to better connect with other people.
  3. Connection with nature – pilgrimage, celebrating seasons and reimagining us and our relationship with the natural world are three ideas you can use to connect with nature.
  4. Connection with the transcendent – this is really the idea of rethinking the practice of prayer. This doesn’t need to be a prayer to someone, but a conversation with yourself. Similar to journaling or doing your gratitude out loud.

BIG IDEA 3 (13:52) – The permission to be creative.

Convention is the death of tradition. It is where old ways of being have lost their relevance and stayed too strict to their methods. Tradition, however, shows us how to live and it allows for tweaks and changes along the way.

The good thing about being creative with rituals is that it gives us permission to take things from different places and make them our own to better connect. It could be a religious activity you want to unbundle from it’s religious context, or an old routine from your childhood. The rituals you have growing up with your family that you want to re-enact or restate. Change it to what you need and make it happen to create the meaning and connection.

Also listen to the episode: The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin: How to learn anything

Music By: After the Movie (by Plaid) - Remix Version Song by Ricardo Tobar

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