The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love

Works of Love
A Newsletter of  The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love

August 27, 2018

Seven Big Institute Questions

Dear Institute Friends:

There is so much good news to share over these last few months, but let's just focus on our core Seven Big Institute Questions.

The Institute is holding its annual board meeting on August 30th in Cleveland. Any Clevelanders who want to get together with me, just float an email to Wednesday (August 29) or Thursday (August 30) between 4:30 and 6 are open at The Coffee House at University Circle behind Glidden House.

This is a convenient time to put our research picture together for your response, although with more than 100 books, hundreds of articles, major speeches worldwide, and a media following, we will only touch on a few items of note:

1. Does the unselfish love of others contribute to the happiness, health and resilience of those who give it?

Many young people are prevented from contributing to the lives of others and flourishing in the process because they think in terms of "pay it back" calculations, when in fact it is better to "pay it forward" in kindness and experience greater happiness and resilience regardless. Pay back or not, it's good to be good. We succeeded in answering this question in the affirmative through dozens of scientific and philosophical papers, most recently summarized in:

  • S.G. Post, "Rx It's Good To Be Good (G2BG) 2017 Commentary: Prescribing Volunteerism for Health, Happiness, Resilience and Longevity," The American Journal of Health Promotion, Vol. 31, No. 2, 2017, pp. 164-172 (with "Opening Commentary" by S.S. Johnson, pp. 163-164). This paper was awarded the Editor-in-Chief's Award for 2017 Paper of the Year.

Over the past decade, with a team of researchers from Case Western School of Medicine, Harvard, and Stony Brook School of Medicine, we have produced 40 (est.) papers on adolescent recovery from alcohol and substance abuse, some of which have drawn national media attention. Two of the most recent papers are:

  • B.R. Johnson, Pagano, M.E., Lee, M.T., Post, S.G., "Alone on the Inside: The Impact of Social Isolation and Helping Others on AOD Use and Criminal Activity," Youth & Society, Vol. 50, No. 4, 2018, pp. 529-550.
  • M.T. Lee, M. Pagano, B. Johnson, S.G. Post, G.S. Leibowitz, M. Didash, "From Defiance to Reliance: Spiritual Virtue as a Pathway Towards Desistence, Humility, and Recovery Among Juvenile Offenders," Spirituality in Clinical Practice: American Psychological Association 2017, Vol. 4, No. 3, 2017, pp. 161-175.

Our books on this question include:

  • S.G. Post (with Jill Neimark). Why Good Things Happen to Good People: How the Simple Act of Giving Can Bring You a Longer, Happier, Healthier Life. With a "Foreword" by Rev. Otis Moss, Jr. New York: Broadway Books/Random House, 2007. [Translated and published in Japan, Brazil, Russia, Portugal, India, Sweden, Indonesia, Korea, and Taiwan. Re-printed in a Barnes & Noble Special Classic edition in 2013]

In essence, then, there really is a "giver's glow," and Rx: It's Good2BGood.

2. How does loving-kindness prevent illness and contribute to the art of healing?

I have spent most of my adult life around medical and nursing schools at the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, Case Western Reserve, and Stony Brook. In the process of engaging with many patients, colleagues, and students, I have stressed the importance of kindness and empathy in illness prevention and recovery. Hence, at Stony Brook I guide a Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics, which includes a graduate program.

This truth holds for vulnerable populations such as people who are "deeply forgetful," and based on my work with this population for over 20 years I received the National Distinguished Service Award from the National Board of the Alzheimer's Association, "In recognition of personal and professional outreach to the Alzheimer's Association Chapters on ethics issues important to people with Alzheimer's and their families."

A useful paper on this question is:

  • S.G. Post, "Hope in Caring for the Deeply Forgetful: Enduring Selfhood and Being Open to Surprises," The Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic: A Journal for the Mental Health Professions, Vol. 77, No. 4, 2013, pp. 349-368.

A major book is:

  • S.G. Post, The Moral Challenge of Alzheimer Disease: Ethical Issues from Diagnosis to Dying (revised and expanded second edition). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000 [first edition 1995]. [Selected by The British Medical Journal as a "Classic of the 20th Century" in 2009.] Third Edition in press, 2019.

Yes, loving-kindness makes all the difference.

3. How can parents and communities raise children who flourish in love for all humanity?

Young people need to be raised in such a way that they live out the practice of "Rx: It's Good to be Good" and kindness not just directed to the nearest and dearest, but to the neediest and to all people regardless of class, color, religion, gender, ethnicity, age, cognitive status, memory, looks, inevitable human imperfections, and so forth.

The Institute has published some books in this area, one favorite of which was done with colleagues at Emory University Divinity School and School of Law:

  • The Best Love of the Child: Being Loved and Being Taught to Love as the First Human Right, edited by Timothy Jackson. Grand Rapids, Mi: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2011.

Although not an Institute publication, I have taken delight in providing a "Foreword" for a book designed to teach "laws of life" to young people:

  • S.G. Post, "Foreword." In Sir John M. Templeton, The Essential Worldwide Laws of Life. Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Press, 2012, pp. 7-13.

Raising children so they flourish in loving-kindness despite the terribly destructive influences of an individualistic materialistic culture that leaves them bereft of meaning is the key to their well-being.

4. How can more people feel called to their work as a form of creative love?

Any young person's life will be blessed if they can find their creative calling and live a life in which their work is also their love. Kahlil Gibran once wrote: "Work is love made visible. And if you can't work with love, but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of the people who work with joy."

In our view, every young person should be educated with the idea of allowing them to find their unique gifts and work with them. This means that we need to rethink education and value every child for their diverse talents in many different domains of creativity and action. These days we suffer from what I call "hypercognitive values," which diminish those with wonderful social, spiritual, healing, or technical gifts that seem to be readily devalued. No young person should be relegated to a work life of "distaste.

We focus on loving creativity and how to make this real in every career.

5. What do people mean when they report a spiritual experience of Unlimited Love, how common is this, and is this experience associated with emotional healing and expanded benevolence?

Okay, those who have no interest in the spiritual lives of young people will determine that this question is not quite one for you. But the fact of the matter is that a great many people young and old do have what they describe to be "spiritual" experiences, and this is a social-psychological variable of importance to them.

But spirituality is so easily diverted into narrow in-group loyalties that really do great damage to our love of all humanity without exception. Thus, we have a special interest in the self-reported spiritual experience Unlimited Love, a sense that there is a power of love and goodness that is greater than ourselves and that we can connect with it and use it for purposes of loving-kindness.

Our papers on this topic are many, and quite recently these come to mind:

  • B.R. Johnson, Pagano, M.E., Lee, M.T., Post, S.G., "Alone on the Inside: The Impact of Social Isolation and Helping Others on AOD Use and Criminal Activity," Youth & Society, Vol. 50, No. 4, 2018, pp. 529-550.
  • M.T. Lee, M. Pagano, B. Johnson, S.G. Post, G.S. Leibowitz, M. Didash, "From Defiance to Reliance: Spiritual Virtue as a Pathway Towards Desistence, Humility, and Recovery Among Juvenile Offenders," Spirituality in Clinical Practice: American Psychological Association 2017, Vol. 4, No. 3, 2017, pp. 161-175.

As for books, a very good national survey study is the basis of:

  • Matthew T. Lee, Margaret M. Poloma & S.G. Post, The Heart of Religion: Spiritual Empowerment, Benevolence, and the Experience of God's Love. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

We continue to recognize the power of spiritual experience in the awakening of goodness in many lives. Much of this work has been carried out by sociologist Matthew T. Lee, who has moved from the University of Akron to a new position with the Program on Integrative Knowledge and Human Flourishing in the Institute of Quantitative Social Science (College of Arts and Sciences) at Harvard University in the role of "Director of Empirical Research"

6. Do physics and mathematics point to an "Ultimate Reality" or "Ground of Being" that underlies visible reality and the universe?

This is a huge metaphysical question that has been debated since Plato and continues to be widely discussed among cosmologists, quantum physicists, and mathematicians. One of my mentors, investor Sir John Templeton, considered this to be the most important question of all. As it turns out, before Sir John died in 2008, he asked my via his son Dr. Jack Templeton to write on his behalf a book representing his ideas, for Sir John himself was running out of time. Sir John gave me a title: Is Ultimate Reality Unlimited Love? I knew at the time that this was not going to be a best seller, and that it would make future trade press publication difficult as a result. But I am a huge believer in loyalty, and there was no way I would not fulfill Sir John's deathbed request.

And so the following book, which is a little dense, is available from the Templeton Press:

  • S.G. Post for Sir John M. Templeton [his death bed request] (1912-2008), Is Ultimate Reality Unlimited Love? With a "Foreword" by Drs. John M. and Josephine Templeton. Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Press, 2014.

Last Year the Templeton Foundation brought together a dozen physicists, mathematicians, philosophers and theologians who knew Sir John for a conference in Nassau on his key areas of research aspiration for the Foundation. I was fortunate to be invited thanks to project director Mary Ann Meyers. This results in a very recent book edited by physicists Paul C.W. Davies and George F.R. Ellis, and Oxford theologian Keith Ward:

  • S.G. Post, "Can We Envisage Sir John's Core Metaphysical Idea?" In Sir John's Vision: What Do We Know? What Is There to Learn? Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Press, 2018, pp. 129-150.

7. How can the major religions and spiritualities of the world come to abide in their concepts of Unlimited Love, and truly practice love for all humanity?

We are all concerned with religiously-inspired hatred and violence whenever it occurs. It is especially worrisome because whole cultures arise around religions. It had been said that when some new prophet comes along people think that he or she might be crazy, but when they gather a following we have a "cult," and if that expands to shape a society we have a "culture." Right now the world is filled with conflict and violence due to the clash of religious "cultures," some of which are far more violent than others. Many young people are swept into this cycle of violence in their youthful idealism and desire to fine meaning as well as community. These young lives are destroyed.

So it is that the Institute conducts worldwide youth essay contests about pushing back against peer pressure to hate others simply because they have different beliefs, and we have even filled the United Nations with winners.

As for publications, there are many, but this one has been influential:

  • Jeff Levin and S.G. Post, eds., Divine Love: Perspectives from the World's Religions. "Foreword" by Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Philadelphia: Templeton Press, 2010.

We believe that every tradition has its own unique symbols and teachings for a love for all humanity, and we try to inoculate young people against all the hate-filled counter messaging that comes along to obscure the teachings of universal loving-kindness.


Be in touch any time.

Stephen G. Post, PhD President


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