Unraveling Religion

Unraveling Religion

These mystical and practical discussions are explorations of spirituality and its relation to religion and psychology, with questions always. Beyond a specific religion or spiritual practice; what do we share, what do we have in common? These talks are a work in progress evolving our rich inner life, including reflections on religious texts, poems, art, and what is common in our human experience enhancing understanding of our relationships: with ourselves, with one another, and with the world we share. Unraveling Religion has developed a cross-collaboration with both Lisa Carley's The Labyrinth podcast and Henry Cretella's Alchemical Dialogues podcast, cross-posting episodes both 'Selected, Best of The Labyrinth' podcast and 'Selected, Best of Alchemical Dialogues' podcast episodes, periodically.


April 12, 2024 46 mins

In this panel discussion with four Rabbis from America's West Coast to Israel, Joel guides an exploration of mobilizing Jewish outreach (i.e., or 'inreach' or 'in reach') how to, why, and what Jewish tradition teaches and offers from a wide range of teachings including Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson and the Baal Shem Tov.

This collection of dedicated and diverse Jewish voices guide the contemporary question 'how do we strengthen ...

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From the archives, the fourth ever episode recorded of Unraveling Religion, this from June 18th, 2008 is reposted In Memoriam for Reverend Kyoki Roberts of Pittsburgh's Deep Spring Temple.

In speaking with Joel, Kyoki explored insights from her long time Zen practice.

What is the nature of Self?

Questions opening into 'what is Zen?' and the relation to Dukkha (Sanskrit, suffering), how Zen practice addresses 'when are material...

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This initial epsiode of Unraveling Religion recorded on November 14th, 2007 in Buffalo, New York explores the question 'what's it all for?' in the largest scale we can imagine. Maj Ragain, who passed in 2018, presents in this talk the intersection of loneliness and its cure, touch, and the ways in which we can comfort one another. Sharing poetry and the makeup of what is meaningful to him, Maj examines the different frameworks of m...

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This episode asks the questions:

  • How do we resolve life's Existential Delimma and paradox?
  • What is 'Virtue?'
  • Can 'Virtue' be taught?  

Joel drops in at Before Your Quiet Eyes Bookstore and finds Ken Kelbaugh, David White, and 'Ted' Estragon in philosophic discourse and joins the discussion examining Bishop Butler, Plotinus, and Plato.

A few minutes into the conversation, Rochester poet Stephen Lloyd joins ...

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February 7, 2024 3 mins

In this trailer of The Labyrinth Podcast, Lisa Carley introduces the podcast's orgins, philosophy, topics, and terrain covered in curiosity of life and existence with these conversations, an invitation to join. 




2015; 'The Sound of Silence' (Instrumental); Immortalized; Reprise Records

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This conversation with Lisa and Joel explores Lisa Carley's new 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 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 aspect...

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In Part 3 Lisa, Rich, and Joel examine the secret to the existential delimma 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 ...

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In Part 2, Lisa, Rich, Read more

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In Part 1 of this Read more

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Henry Cretella and Joel discuss collaboration to present a series of four workshops in 2024 from Amber Light, Int. and Education Training Center, Inc.'s Ground and Sky Poetry Series entitled 'Spirituality In Everyday Life.' The topics of the four workshops are: 1. Spirituality And Service 2. Spirituality And Relationship 3. Spirituality And Mental Health and 4. Spirituality And The Arts.

Also, Henry discusses some of the...

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From The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, to the Ba'al Shem Tov, to Maimonides and Moses this discussion includes topics of the security of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel and how the Jewish people can fortify their existence and safety. Rabbi Greenberg and Joel examine the best Jewish responses to the terror attack October 7th, 2023. The journey of this conversation addresses Jewish Unity, and the exiles and...

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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, culminati...
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Part 2, continues the vital disucssion regarding the implications of spirituality, of religion, or neither?

Continue listening to this panel discussion with five practitioners who are either involved or have been with both spirituality and religion, as they explore their views and experiences.

Aude Chesnais, Ph.D., has encountered various spiritual traditions before finding her family on the Sufi path since 2017. She is a...

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Alchemical Dialogues held a panel discussion regarding spirituality and religion.

These two practices not the same, but this can be confusing for many.

Westerners, in growing numbers, identify as 'spiritual, but not religious.'

Likewise, there are many who list their religious affiliation as 'other.'  

Atheism and agnosticism are growing, often touting the benefits of community without the perceived negatives that religion and...

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In Part 2 of the Alchemical Dialogues Podcast with Henry Cretella and Joel Lesses, more discussion surrounding wisdom of lived experience including Joel's personal history exploring mental health distress and an opporunity. 


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, ...

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Henry and Joel discuss lessons from lived experience with mental health distress, including: lessons from trauma, isolation, loneliness, marginalization, existential crisis, and 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 d...

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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 responsibity for our com...

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On Richard Wicka's I Thou Video Series Richard and Joel, two old friends, talk and deconstruct meaning, trauma, and suffering and its relation to political and religous spectrums and systems of belief. Richard and Joel teach each about their perspectives in deeply honoring and respectful discourse, examining: nationalism, Hilter, neonazism, the liberal or left versus the right or conservative belief systems that influence the ...

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