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Frederic Spiegelberg was a Stanford University professor of religion. A friend of Paul Tillich, Martin Heidegger, and Carl Jung, he participated in Jung's Eranos symposia and lectured in Jung's institute in Zurich. Paul Tillich helped Spiegelberg escape Germany in 1937 after Spiegelberg was fired from the university. Spiegelberg moved to Stanford University and became professor of Asian religions with a classical comparative focus.
In 1951, Spiegelberg invited Haridas Chaudhuri, a disciple of Sri Aurobindo, to join the staff of the newly-formed American Academy of Asian Studies in San Francisco. This eventually became the California Institute of Integral Studies. Spiegelberg was also involved in founding the Esalen Institute with Michael Murphy.
- Spiegelberg’s phrase "the religion of no religion" had deep existential roots. It was based on a mystical encounter with the natural world he experienced as a young theology student. He was walking in a wheat field on a bright day when, quite suddenly, his ego vanished and what he calls the Self appeared. Through this altered perspective, he began to see that God was shining through everything in the world, that everything was divine, that there was nothing but holiness. As he reveled in this revelation, he came around a corner and found himself confronting a gray church. He was horrified. How, he asked himself, could such a building claim to hold something more sacred, more divine, than what he had just experienced in the poppies, birds, and sky of the now divinized cosmos? It all seemed preposterous, utterly preposterous, to him. From the theological scandal of this initial altered state, Spiegelberg developed and theorized what was essentially (or non-essentially) an apophatic mystical theology that approaches religious language, symbol, and myth as non-literal projective expressions of some deeper metaphysical truth that, paradoxically, is simultaneously immanent and transcendent—a kind of dialectical or mystical humanism, if you will. It was just such a comparative mystical theology grounded in the natural world, and just such a critical but deep engagement with the religious traditions of the world, that inspired Murphy and his colleagues in their new venture.