Category Archives: religion

The Origins of FCRP

A Short History of the Early Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology
written for the 75th anniversary of the Conference, May 2017

by Lorraine Kreahling

The first Friends Conference on religion and psychology took place on Easter weekend in 1943 in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Thirty-seven women and seventeen men from six states, representing twenty-one Quaker meetings met for dinner at Haddon House Hotel and Restaurant on that Good Friday evening. They then likely took the short walk to the Haddonfield Meeting House. After Meeting for Worship, Elined Prys Kotschnig, the group’s “chairman,” offered opening remarks and introduced the first speaker, Dr. Seward Hiltner, Secretary of the Federal Council on Churches, who spoke on religion and health (and the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit). By the final evening meal on Sunday, April 23, the group had heard three additional speakers and two four-person panels. Each event began and ended with silent worship.

The “Friends Conference on the Nature and Laws of Our Spiritual Lives,” as the conference was initially called, had grown out of several Quaker study groups focused on how the “new sciences of the mind” (specifically psychology and psychiatry) could contribute to and support spiritual life in religious communities, and most particularly Friends meetings. War—the impact of the First World War and the beginning of a new one—was affecting everyone’s faith and mental balance. As church pastors and priests became schooled in psychology to better minister to those with problems in their congregations, Friends recognized their own clergy-free meetings might be falling behind the curve. Quakers’ role as medics and other service workers such as ambulance drivers in World War I—and the incarceration and institutionalization of some conscientious objectors—had left many spirits wounded. Such traumas, coupled with the growing psychological problems of modern life, presented new challenges within Quaker meetings where every member could act as lay minister.

Psychology, nevertheless, was a fairly new discipline. And some Quakers were suspicious of it, according to Mrs. Kotschnig, “associating it with the hedonism of Freud” or “the realm of experimenting on rats.” But those who gathered for the first conference understood that these new sciences of the mind and emotions—rather than undermine the value of Quaker traditions—could support spiritual growth and offer tools to help chronic individual emotional problems that impaired spiritual development.

“Have we the right just because it is difficult and we might do the wrong thing to shirk the responsibility of assisting those in need of religious and personality adjustment?” the leaders wrote in their publication, Inward Light, after the first conference. “The resources of inner poise and mutual help which the Friends’ way of life contains may be more thoroughly examined than has been customary.”

Importantly, it was not just those with difficult “personality traits” who could profit from what was being called “pastoral psychology” among the clergy. Some attending the conference wondered if Quakers were not being drawn away from the core of Quaker faith and practice—the inner life and the mystical experience of the Divine—by too much busy-ness and “good work” in the world.

“We feel that for modern man a discovery of the unconscious and its exploration with the help of Jungian psychology will lead him back to his source and a sense of the true leading of the Spirit that was the source of strength of early Friends,” early board member Joseph Myers wrote in a letter to Elined Kotschnig. “In my opinion, we are trying to interest the Society of Friends and its fringes of influence in the reality of the Spirit as contrasted with [Quakers’] philosophical humanism that has increasingly dulled the sense of God’s Immanence,”

In a panel on “the development of the individual inner life” at the first conference, Myers along with Robert English, Teresina Rowel, Dora Willson, and Rachel Cadbury had focused on “obstacles which block the growth of the spirit—the preoccupation with trivialities; conflicts with others; self-centeredness.” They discussed how psychological approaches could “prove helpful in overcoming [such obstacles] and might “open the spirit to the disciplines which train it for steady growth.”

Even as the group shared a deep conviction about the value of silence as a direct experience of the Divine, they also recognized that personality patterns hampering spiritual growth might need something more than prayer to change.

“Certainly we all would suggest a generous use of silence, but it is my opinion that this alone is not sufficient,” J. Calvin Keene of Howard University wrote in Inward Light. “In the silence, the materials of our spiritual studies and experience take shape for us,” he continued, but not if the individual “lacked such experiences and studies.” He added, “Over and over we find groups who want to live more fully in the spirit but have no notion of how to proceed. If this could be investigated, with concrete suggestions based on sound psychology of how to proceed, I believe this would have great value.”

Elined Prys Kotschnig did not have to be convinced of the value of psychological exploration as part of a deep spiritual path. By the time she arrived in America in 1936, emigrating from Switzerland with her husband Edward and two young children, she had found her life’s work in the study and practice of Jungian psychology and understanding its similarities to the mystical elements of Quakerism. While in analysis with Tina Keller (whose own analysis was with C. G. Jung and Toni Wolff) and while in training at the Jung Institute to become analyst herself, Kotschnig started a study group on Quakers and Jungian thought. Thanks to Keller, the group eventually met with Jung, an event, Kotschnig appeared still thrilled to recount many decades later, writing in Inward Light.

“An international group from the Friends Meeting of Geneva, Switzerland, once had the unusual privilege of discussing with Jung himself the relation between Quakerism and his psychology. The group had spent the season 1934-5 studying his ideas, and on a fine June day three carloads of us drove across Switzerland to Zurich and were received by Dr. and Mrs. Jung at their beautiful home by the lake. Over tea in the garden, with home-grown strawberries, we had several hours of remarkably free exchange of ideas. Dr. Jung agreed with us on the affinity we found between Quaker ideas and experiences and his own psychology, and he met our sincere desire for more than intellectual answers to our questions with equal sincerity and candor.”

Kotschnig understood that Jungian psychology and Quaker faith shared the conviction that the “God within” was the source of spiritual growth and strength. This source, which Jung called the “Self,” was below ego consciousness, so did not originate with the “I” personality with which most of us lead our lives. Centering down in the silence of Quaker worship opened up the territory of the unconscious from which guidance flowed. This was this same below consciousness dynamic energetic center that sustained the spiritual and intellectual discoveries of the soul’s journey in the analytical process of Jungian psychology.

Writing in Inward Light, Kotschnig spelled out the parallels: “Jung sees images like the Light and the Seed as dynamic symbols of the Self, the central reality of the psyche, expressive of its illuminating quality and its power of growth respectively,” she wrote. “Quaker’s hallowed phrase, ‘the Christ within’ is in Jung’s estimation [also] a Self-symbol,” Kotschnig explained, saying that Jung equated it with the ego-free territory of “St. Paul’s declaration, ‘Not I live, but Christ liveth in me.’”

In Quakerism, there was an inherent trust in the divine nature of the messages which arose in Quaker meeting; it was part of the mystery of faith. With Jungian psychology, there was also a deep belief in the value of the material that came up from the unconscious, showing itself in dreams, waking fantasies, and outward projections. But a more difficult process of discernment was required to harvest the insights and wisdom in the Jungian analytic process.

One vital difference—a difference that would make it difficult for some Quakers to embrace Jungian psychology—was the value placed on the dark elements that came out of the unconsciousness. “Of its many elements, some are in harmonious combination, others at loggerheads with one another,” Mrs. Kotschnig wrote about the dynamic, pulsing world of the unconscious. “Our ego identifies with some, resigns itself to others, rejects or represses yet others, and of many more it remains quite unaware.”

The Self, both she and Jung believed, would lead the individual psyche toward wholeness, the Light, and harmony. But the process required witnessing and integrating parts of the dark rather than sidestepping or ignoring them or trying to force them back underground. Focusing on the Light alone, as Quakers were more likely to prefer to do, would not achieve the same end.

“Friends, it is suggested, usually ignore or deny negative feelings, dwell solely on the Inner Light, and identify with it,” Kotschnig wrote in Inward Light. But it was important to understand, she said, that “negative feelings can be used, if accepted. Negative feelings are symptoms of conflict, due to parts left out of the pattern we try to make of our lives.” When Quakers turn away from an examination of the Dark along with the Light, Kotschnig said, they “risked losing the energy produced by the flow back and forth between positive and negative poles.”

This core tenet of Jung’s psychology would reliably shake up the membership and leadership of the Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology, sewing both discord and wonder, throughout its history. Kotschnig and other early leaders’ efforts to explore depth psychology, which supported the health of the spirit and the whole Self, rather than just the “Holy” self, would continue to create a dynamic polarity among Conference member and leaders, keeping the energy of ideas and spirit flowing.

On the practical side, after that first conference over Easter Tide in 1943, the Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology—the name it adopted in 1945—would continue to be held annually in the spring, though not on a fixed weekend or in the same place. The second conference used Third Street Meeting House in Media, Pennslyvania, as a gathering place; Quaker hospitality in the area was supplemented by lodging at Pendle Hill. The following year, the conference was held at Arch Street Meeting in Philadelphia. In the years to come, it would go back to Media, but also to Swarthmore and Haverford. There was sometimes a keynote speaker, but more often, there were a number speakers and panels. And there were small break-out discussion groups led by conference members, the earliest version of the conference’s small interest groups.

From the start, great reliance was placed on the satellite study groups dotted around the East Coast, with their ambitious reading lists. The groups’ lively seasonal meetings helped guide the conference’s intellectual and spiritual agenda. The group’s journal, Inward Light, a collection of essays, poetry, and even illustrations, was published several times a year in an effort to keep the scattered membership connected. (Inward Light ceased publication in 1980s and is available in archival open stacks at the Friends Historical Library in McCabe Library on the Swarthmore College campus.)

From very early, a topic of discussion was whether the Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology was a professional conference—or a personal growth experience. One of its founding board members, Robert A. Clark, a psychiatrist who eventually traveled to study at the Jung Institute in Zurich—and who later still was named director of the Friends Hospital in Philadelphia—argued for a non-hierarchal, egalitarian approach.

“My innocent conception was that we (the faculty included) were to set down together and learn from each other, everyone contributing what he could,” Dr. Clark wrote in a 1945 letter to the recording secretary Emma Conroy. “It is true that we ‘experts’ might contribute technical knowledge in our special spheres, but I for one make no pretense to be an expert on the ‘nature and laws of our spiritual life.” He concluded, that what made Quakers unique was their lack of theological expertise—and that in fact ministry came from everyone. “It is the essence of Quakerism that special learning, theological or otherwise, has little to do with genuine spirituality,” Dr. Clark wrote.

For its first thirty years, the conference remained a two-night, two-day weekend, with events generally bookended by dinner Friday and Sunday evenings. The speaker roster ranged from the lesser known to the illustrious, and included: Fritz Kunkel, Ira Progoff, Gerald Heard, D.T. Suzuki, Harmon Bro, Christine Downing, Paul Tillich, Douglas Steere, Howard Brinton, Henry Cadbury, and M.C. Richards.

In 1972, the conference arranged with Haverford College to use its facilities over the holiday weekend of Memorial Day. It was the first three-day and three-night conference, and it was a formula, place, and time that would endure. In 1987, in part because of the large group anticipated for keynote speaker Robert Bly, the conference moved to Cedar Crest College in Allentown. By 1991, it moved again, settling in to its current home at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania.

Among the other speakers in the more than five decades of three-day conferences were: Joseph Campbell, Linda Leonard, James Hall, Joseph and Terasina Havens, Robert Johnson, David Hart, Douglas Hitchings, Matthew Fox, David Whyte, Marion Woodman, Sylvia Brinton Perera, Lionel Corbett, Donald Kalsched, Michael Conforti, Joanna Macy, Mary Orr, Alan Chinon, and Mary Watkins.

Mrs. Kotschnig was still attending the conference in the 1970s—and her writing continued to argue that George Fox himself grasped that only by owning the power of dark within ourselves could we come fully into the Light. When people mention Fox’s famous vision of the ocean of Light, she wrote, they too often failed to recognize that Fox had to confront his own dark inside. Kotschnig quoted from Fox’s journal in which he wrote about the great crisis of faith that preceded his vision:

“The Lord showed me that the natures of those things which were hurtful without were within [emphasis, mine] in the hearts and minds of wicked men. The natures of dogs, swine, vipers, of Sodom, of Egypt, Pharoah, Cain, Ishmael, Esau, etc. The natures of these I saw within, though people had been looking without. And I cried to the Lord, saying, ‘Why should I be thus, seeing I was never addicted to commit those evils?’ And the Lord answered that it was needful I should have a sense of all conditions; how else should I speak to all conditions; and in this I saw the infinite love of God. I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. And in that also I saw the infinite love of God; and I had great openings.”

The ebb and flow of the dark and the Light that Fox envisioned and the witness of both with a trust that the Light would lead has been at the core of the Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology, even as it has honored many different spiritual paths to reach the wholeness that was at the heart of Jungian psychology.

“To those Friends who have felt in our latter-day Quakerism a too complacent assumption of the supremacy of the Inward Light and too little readiness to recognize the shadow side of our nature, this insistence of Jung’s on the Darkness has been a bracing challenge to overcome our blind spots as individuals and as a religious Society,” Kotschnig wrote in a late Inward Light. “It has become newly important therefore to understand how early Friends envisioned the forces of Darkness and Light.”

“[But] In enlightened moments one ceases to feel the ego as the prime directing center of one’s total self,” she added. “Our ego is not the central reality in our own psyche.”

The writer wishes to thank the Friends Historical Library located in the McCabe Library on Swarthmore College Campus for access to early archives of the Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology.

FCRP 2017 Interest Groups

closing ceremony
FCRP Closing

Interest Groups 

Facilitator: Dixon Bell
We will explore the Plenary talks on a deeper level in a facilitated discussion group.  We will also discuss any other topics that arise.  This Interest Group provides an opportunity to join into a group identity that is safe and develops organically. Mode: Discussion, sharing

Dixon Bell is a past clerk of FCRP and has been associated with FCRP and WFCRP for over a decade.   He is a poet and a cyclist and has been a teacher for the past 43 years.  He is now retired and lives in Glengary, WV.

Facilitator: Lorraine Kreahling
Ideas and insights that occur while listening to the Plenary talks can get lost when we stand and hurry off to what’s next.  We will make a point of noting these insights or epiphanies (whether comforting or troubling) and bring them to share with the group.  We will use breath and images, and simple yoga postures to create space to honor these truths in our bodies.
Mainstream culture’s obsession with bodily perfection—youth and conventional beauty—can land as a kind of shadow on our physical selves, triggering defenses that can get in the way of the Light.  In our discussion of evil (following the Plenary topic), we will use breath to enable us to hold the dark material nonjudgmentally—rather than reflexively dismissing it.  From this conscious physical witness, new Light may emerge from a deeper place.  Please wear lose clothing that allows movement and bring a yoga mat or blanket and a journal. Mode: Discussion and yoga

Lorraine Kreahling  is a writer and lifelong student of yoga with a daily practice.  She studied professional dance for many years in New York City.  She did graduate work focused on the meaning of dance in fairy  tales and folk tales; her graduate thesis was on Jung’s Individuation process as mirrored in fairy tales.  She has been a regular contributor to The New York Times, including articles on yoga.  She is a member of 15th Street Monthly Meeting.

Facilitator: Beth Perry
A broad range of people can benefit from Tai Chi.  Tai Chi teaches you to relax and avoid using unnecessary effort in movement. It allows you to channel the energy you save into paying attention—first to your body, and later to the forces that act on you from the outside. “Sole” work—directing your attention to the weight pouring into your footprints—helps you discover one of the basic secrets for maintaining balance. The practice of listening to your body can open the door to unexplored abilities. Our work will include practical applications for daily life—from lifting a child or shoveling snow to getting in and out of a chair with the least amount of effort.   Come in comfortable clothes and flat comfortable shoes. All levels of physical capability are welcome.  Mode: Gentle Movement

Beth Perry began study of Cheng Man Ching’s Yang form of Tai Chi in the early 1980s and has studied with many of his senior students, including, Maggie Newman and the late Dr. Tao. She is an advanced student of the martial art application of ’push hands.’ Beth teaches Tai Chi  in retirement homes, adult education schools, senior centers, and Friends Center in Philadelphia. She spent several years working in Uganda and southern Sudan, returning to use that experience in anti-apartheid work with American Friends Service Committee and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Beth is a member of Radnor, PA Friends meeting.

Facilitator: Stephen Potthoff
In this interest group. we will be exploring various ways the natural world and dreaming can facilitate journeys into the shadow realm of the unconscious while simultaneously serving as a place of inspiration, light, and transcendence.  Participants are encouraged to bring with them dreams that have brought them into valleys of the Shadow, as well as realms of light.  Workshop activities will include a hands-on telling of the universe story, dream incubation exercises involving intimate exploration of the natural world, and collective dreaming on behalf of Mother Earth.

Stephen Potthoff is a Professor of Religion at Wilmington College, in Wilmington, Ohio. He has both a personal and scholarly interest in dream and visionary experience and has offered dream workshops at Wilmington College, Pendle Hill and the Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology. Stephen is a member of New Garden Friends Meeting (NC) and attends Wilmington College Campus Meeting (OH).

Facilitator: Gary Soulsman
Death has been a taboo subject for many of us. But we are also learning there is much to be gained from sharing our experiences with death, along with our anxieties and hopes around our own aging.  In fact, by looking at death we can gain a new perspective on how we wish to use our remaining years. This group will include intimate sharing, meditations on love and our personal fate, as well as a discussion of the implications of the Near Death Experience. Participants will have a chance to talk about Lionel Corbett’s plenaries as well.  Mode: Sharing, meditation, discussion

Gary Soulsman is a journalist whose academic work focused on social and behavioral studies. He was the religion reporter for Delaware’s largest daily paper. His work with dream sharing groups spans more than 25 years.  He is a long time member of FCRP and will be co-clerk of the FCRP Planning Committee starting after the FCRP 2017 Conference..

Facilitator: Deborah Shayne Hughes
Recent developments in neuro-science suggest that beyond the well-known ‘fight or flight’ response to overwhelming stress, there might be a third response of collapse or freeze.  In this group, we will use the practices of Feldenkrais Awareness through Movement and iRest Yoga Nidra to explore the impact of stress on the body, including paralysis and collapse in the face of old terrors or untenable dilemmas.  Through these techniques of gentle  movement and deep-body meditation—and drawing on the work of Marion Woodman—we will allow the slow emergence of the conscious feminine which can bring healing in ways both earthly and divine.  Yin or the receptive in feminine energy is present in both men and women.  The subtle shifts of consciousness that it engenders can help us articulate and embody our soul’s destiny and the sankalpa (the heart’s desire envisioned in yoga Nidra). As we learn to honor the posture of stress collapse, we can begin to witness how it can be fertile ground for a new embodied self.   We will see how initiating small changes in how we move and speak can help alter old patterns and make us more open to guidance and transformative behavioral choices.  Please bring your journal, pen and colors, a blanket and support pillows, if available.

Deborah Shayne Hughes is a former librarian, storyteller and teacher of Trauma Sensitive Yoga and Awareness through Movement.  She is a graduate of the Trauma Center at JRI Boston and Feldenkrais Baltimore.   She is also a long-time student of Jung and the work of Marion Woodman and the Embodied Feminine, NS first attended FCRP in 1989.

Facilitator: Martha Witebsky
We will use Baroque music as background to boost our concentration,  help us  become aware of our thoughts, and to inspire us to examine and reflect on what flows through our minds. Expressing our thoughts on paper helps us to reflect more fully.  This mindful approach will allow us to respond to the Plenary theme and explore our personal experiences.  We will have an opportunity to share our writings with the group if we so wish.  Mode: Writing

Martha Witebsky has facilitated writing groups at many  FCRP and WFCRP Conferences.  She is retired from her work as a translator of French and German at  the US Patent and Trade Office.

Facilitator: Randy Goldberg
Family constellation work helps you connect and correct the past so you can move forward with inner peace. Imagine a constellation in the sky—a grouping of stars that depicts your ancestors. Each star has an invisible string of energy connecting one to another and to you. In your aliveness on this earth, you are tethered to these people of the past. You have inherited their joys and sorrows, and you may be carrying anger, loss, illness or guilt that burden your life today—even if you do not know how or why.
Family Constellations is a method that allows the hidden to come to light.  The family constellation not only permits disconnections to become visible, but it also provides for the reconnection of the family members to take place.  Specific words or phrases and certain movements allow the energy to flow.  When it does so, everyone in the room can experience the shifts that become apparent.  Mode: Experiential, sharing

Randy Goldberg, is a graduate of the DC Hellinger Institute, and did advanced studies with Heinz Stark of the Stark Institute for Systemic Integrative Therapy in Germany. He regularly facilitates Family Constellation therapy for individuals and groups.  A former Yoga monk, he is also a Craniosacral therapist and an astrologer.

Facilitator: Jane Byerley

We will study poetry –some related to evil—some not. And we will journal to share or not to share. And perhaps do a little intuitive writing—as Spirit moves us. Do not hesitate to bring a poem for discussion if you wish.  Mode: Creative journaling and discussion

Jane Byerley has a wide range of experience. She completed graduate work in English literature at the University of Warwick, UK, and a Masters of Social Work in the States. She has studied C.G. Jung in study groups for 25 years and is a member of the Jung Society of Washington. She has worked as a psychotherapist and as a management consultant. She is FCRP’s Registrar and is Clerk of the Washington Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology (WFCRP).

Facilitator: Dana Gayner
Express yourself with color, shape, and form.  Engage your right brain in an artistic blitzkrieg of passion by painting papers that will be cut up into enticing shapes and glued together to tell your story.  No artistic skill is necessary.  Let your creative side take control while building the saga of your life.

Dana Gayner studied art at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She was a teacher for over 25 years and learned to appreciate the many forms art can take. She has shown her watercolors, acrylics, ceramic masks, and fiber creations in many galleries and exhibitions. In addition, she has run many workshops featuring art in both two and three dimensional forms. Her Quaker background has led her to explore the spiritual nature of creativity.

Facilitator: Walter Brown
We will take a quick look at the historical Quaker view of these topics and have a discussion about where modern liberal Friends are these days.  Mostly this will be a chance to consider your personal philosophy and/or theology and how it fits or does not fit well with Jungian thought.  No particular knowledge of Quakerism or Jung for that matter is needed for this group.  Mode – Discussion, deep sharing and meditation.

Walter Brown is a life-long Friend who recently retired from his work as psychotherapist.  He has done various workshops at FCRP, WFCRP, Baltimore Yearly Meeting and other Quaker and professional settings.  Walter with his wife, Carole, live in Washington, DC and attend Langley Hill Friends Meeting in No. Va.

Facilitator: None, follow your leadings
This group is for those who would like unscheduled time to collect thoughts, share, meditate, and just relax. Loosely scheduled, we will provide a safe space for those who just want to be or do their own thing. 
Mode: Discussion, sharing, free time, your choice.




WFCRP Information

View from Wellspring Conference Center


Washington Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology has been meeting annually in February since 1977.  We are a “miniconference” of Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology which has been meeting in Pennsylvania since 1943. Similar to our parent organization, Washington FCRP is a smaller conference which seeks ways to strengthen the inner life of the Spirit. We are part of a spiritual community which seeks to discover and nourish our own deepest process, and to uncover ways in which this process can help us live in the everyday world more focused and grounded in our spiritual reality.

Themes of the conference incorporate the Quaker belief in the Inner Light, as well as the principles of depth psychology, with particular emphasis on the work of C.G. Jung. Meeting for worship, plenary sessions, group drumming, small group experiences, and informal dialogue nurture our conference community and help us to understand the life of the Spirit. Affiliation with the Religious Society of Friends is not necessary to attend.

WFCRP 2018 registration is now open.  Check out the WFCRP 2018  Plenary, Interest Group, Schedule and Registration pages.

The Conference is organized and administered entirely by a Planning Committee composed of conference attendees who volunteer their services. The Committee meets several times during the year. The Committee welcomes the participation of any attendee who wishes to become part of this process.  To contact the current WFCRP Planning Committee please visit the Contacts page.

The conference met at the Wellspring Conference Center near Germantown, MD until its closing in 2011. For the past few years we have met at the Bishop Claggett Center in Buckeystown, MD, but we are returning to Wellspring for the 2018 Conference.

To find out more about WFCRP history click here to view and/or download our WFCRP history document.


WFCRP 2018 Interest Groups

View from Wellspring Conference Center

WFCRP 2018
Interest Group Descriptions

Click here to go to the WFCRP Registration page and register.

    • W1-Proprioceptive Writing (c),  Martha Witebsky— With the calming effect of Baroque music in the background, this practice provides us with an opportunity to express our thoughts in writing. We can review our life and reflect on the innermost part of ourselves and past experiences that have stirred us and shaped our identities. We will write what we “hear” and share our “writes” with the group, if we choose. The practice is based on the book Writing the Mind Alive. The Proprioceptive Method for Finding your Authentic Voice, by Linda Trichter-Metcalf and Tobin Simon.
    • Martha Witebsky— Martha has practiced the proprioceptive writing technique for many years and has facilitated Interest Groups at a Friends Conferences at Wellspring, Bishop Claggett Center, and FCRP at Lebanon Valley College.  She has participated in workshops led by Linda Trichter-Metcalf and Tobin Simon.  She is retired from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where she worked as a technical translator.
    • W2-Tai Chi: The Wisdom of Letting Go, Beth Perry — A broad range of people can benefit from tai chi. Tai chi teaches you to relax and avoid using unnecessary effort in movement. It allows you to channel the energy you save into paying attention—first to your body, and later to the forces that acton you from the outside. “Sole” work—directing your attention to the weight pouring into your footprints—helps you discover one of the basic secrets for maintaining balance. The practice of listening to your body can open the door to unexplored abilities. Our work will include practical applications for daily life—from lifting a child or shoveling snow to getting in and out of a chair with the least amount of effort. Come in comfortable clothes and flat, comfortable shoes. All levels of physical capability are welcome.
    • Beth Perry — Beth began study of Cheng Man Ching’s Yang form of tai chi in the early
      1980s and has studied with many of his senior students, including Maggie Newman and the late Dr. Tao. She is an advanced student of the martial art application of “push hands.” Beth teaches tai chi in retirement homes, adult education schools, senior centers, and Friends Center in Philadelphia. She spent several years working in Uganda and southern Sudan, returning to use that experience in anti-apartheid work with American Friends Service Committee and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Beth is a member of Radnor, PA, Friends Meeting.
    • W3- Parsing the Plenary – Walter Brown– This group provides a chance to discuss the plenary talks in depth. We will take a look at what James Hollis has to say and how we each react to it. In particular, we will review the book on which the plenary is based: Hauntings: Dispelling the Ghosts Who Run Our Lives. We also can just let Spirit lead us where it will.[Note: Two other very worthwhile books of Hollis’s are Swamplands of the Soul: New Life in Dismal Places and Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up.]
    • Walter Brown – Walter, a lifelong Quaker, attends Langley Hill Friends Meeting in McLean, Virginia, with his wife Carole Brown. An LCSW, he practiced psychotherapy in the Washington area for 38 years before retiring in 2016. He has led interest groups and workshops on Quakerism and Jung, as well as related topics at FCRP, WFCRP, and Baltimore Yearly Meeting, and also
      professionally. He has served on the planning committees for WFCRP and FCRP.
    • W4- The Art of Making Books  – Dana Gayner-Creating a book is much more than paper and glue when you allow your soul to guide you. Learn how to make a "Magic Wallet" book that can tell a story near and dear to your heart. All tools and supplies will be provided. You just bring your Spirit!
    • Dana Gayner– Dana studied art at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She was a teacher for over 25 years and learned to appreciate the many forms art can take. She has shown her watercolors, acrylics, ceramic masks, and fiber creations in many galleries and exhibitions. In addition, she has led many workshops featuring art in both two and three dimensional forms. Her Quaker background has led her to explore the spiritual nature of creativity.
    • W5 – Poetry – Jane Byerley – The group will explore the plenary talks through poetry. We will review some poems related to
      haunting, examining the poems both structurally and through their themes—with facilitated discussion and perhaps some journaling.
    • Jane Byerley – Jane has a wide range of experience. She completed graduate work in English literature at the University of Warwick, UK, and a Masters of Social Work in the States. She has studied C.G. Jung in study groups for 25 years and is a member of the Jung Society of Washington. She has worked as a psychotherapist and as a management consultant. She is Clerk of the WFCRP.
    • W6 – If It Were My Dream – Gary Soulsman – This easy-to- grasp way of exploring dreams creates a safe space by inviting each of us to
      imagine how we might think and feel if the dream of another were our own. The nonjudgmental
      process—pioneered by Jeremy Taylor and Montague Ullman—evokes serious, touching,
      lighthearted emotion. Bring your empathy and your dreams.
    • Gary Soulsman – Gary Soulsman is a writer who worked as a Delaware journalist for close to 40 years. He has been involved in dream work for three decades and is a teacher of “The Mysteries of Death & Dying” in the University of Delaware’s Osher Institute. He is also co-clerk of the Friends
      Conference on Religion and Psychology.
    • W7 – The On Your Own Group – no leader. We encourage Interest Group participation It is an important part of the Conference. However we understand that there are times when people need to opt out. This is the opt out group. You might meet together just to talk or you can go off on your own during the Interest Group time periods.


Articles and Links


The pond at LVC
Peace Garden at LVC


About FCRP


Our guest speaker develops the Conference theme in four plenary sessions (informal talks) over the four-day period. Within our nonjudgmental and retreat-like environment, we can open ourselves to the speaker’s message and its personal resonance in our lives. The small group workshops use discussion, art materials, writing, dreams, and body work to process and integrate insights. Throughout the weekend, community builds as well through informal sharing at meals and in free time.

Our approach has been historically Jungian but in recent years has focused more on the Jungian concept of individuation.  We all have the capacity to find wholeness, to find more of what we are and in that way have more to contribute to the world around us. Yearly speaker topics have ranged from dealing with aging, with trauma, healing our environment and the natural world, neural networks, and the connection between body, mind and spirit.

We also sponsor a smaller and shorter Conference which meets in the Washington DC area in February, mid-winter. It, again, is a chance to be part of an on-going spiritual community bringing light to the dark time of the year.


The first Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology was held over Easter weekend in 1943 at the Friends Meeting House in Haddonfield, New Jersey. In the shadow of WWII, one of our founding members, Elined Kotschnig, wrote:

“Gradually out of the very extremity of the darkness, pin-points of light and understanding were seen glimmering here and there in a counter movement to the vortex of devastation and degradation we had been sucked down into.”

Elinid Kotchnig
Elinid Kotschnig

Mrs. Kotschnig trained as an analyst at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich in the mid-1930s and was part of a Quaker study group in Geneva that examined similarities between Quakerism and Jungian psychology. At a four-hour tea in his garden, Jung and the group discussed the affinity between Jung’s conviction that spiritual growth began with the journey inward to the unconscious and the Quaker conviction that focus on the Inner Light provided direction. This foundation continues to be a springboard for FCRP’s exploration of the Life of the Spirit through the inward journey—a journey which embraces disciplines beyond psychology and the Quaker faith.

Go to the Articles and Links page and check out the articles from the 75th Anniversary to find out more about FCRP origins.

Click here to view a history of FCRP conferences

FCRP 2018 Plenary

closing ceremony
FCRP Closing

The 76th Annual Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology

Memorial Day Weekend – May 25 – May 28, 2018




Bessel Van der Kolk


with Joe Weldon and Noel Wight of the Somatic Therapy Center

picture of Joe Weldon
Joe Weldon

picture of Noel Wight
Noel Wight

This year’s Plenary Speaker is psychiatrist and New York Times best-selling author Bessel Van der Kolk, M.D. His book, “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma”, is a courageous exploration of how trauma—whether from war-time experience, sexual abuse, corporal punishment, or even early parental verbal assaults—registers deeply in the body and emotional brain. Such trauma gets imprinted neurologically at a distance from one’s rational self.  Dr van der Kolk explains that chronic depression, rage, anger, panic attacks, suicidal tendencies—and even self-abuse or numbing through overeating, alcohol, and drugs—can be symptoms of deep, painful past injury.

In his early work with Vietnam vets, Bessel van der Kolk learned firsthand how difficult it was to “right” a mind knocked out of kilter by the severe trauma of battle and the experience of wartime atrocities. Even those vets who were able to tell their stories in a therapeutic setting often found that their lives continued to be hijacked by uncontrollable emotions and behavior. Recovery proved elusive.

Neuroscience offers a partial explanation for this. Brain scans show that trauma affects the brain at a deep “instinctual” level. The limbic brain triggers the release of the fight/flight hormones adrenalin and cortisol: The heart beats faster; breathing speeds up; blood pressure rises, and increased sugar is rushed to the muscles. When an individual is fighting or fleeing to survive or is paralyzed by fear, activity in the prefrontal cortex—the part of our brain that moderates social behavior—all but ceases. When trauma survivors encounter sounds, images, or even smells associated with the original trauma later in life, the deeper animal brain again responds, prompting a rush of cortisol and adrenaline that can cause uncontrollable emotions such as, rage, panic, anxiety, and depression. Again, brain scans show that when faced with trauma, the part of the brain that normally allows us to “calmly and objectively hover over our thoughts, feelings, and emotions and to decide how to respond”—that is, the pre-frontal cortex—fails to control behavior.

“Trauma is not just an event in the past, it is an imprint left by experience on mind, brain, and body which affects how we survive,” Dr. van der Kolk writes. “After trauma, the world is experienced with a different nervous system.” Overused neurological circuits become default patterns in the brain. In an effort to suppress the inner chaos, the trauma victim often tries to remain in control at the expense of being present in life. He or she is unable to experience spontaneity, to play, and is often closed off to new experience.

What does this have to do with the interplay of psychology and spiritual growth, the traditional interests of the Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology? How do the effects of early trauma on our emotional health affect the clarity we need to love one another? When trauma damages our inherent sense of feeling safe in our bodies, are there ways to recover?

The science and experience of researchers and therapists suggest that healing from trauma requires more than a rational understanding of the early injury. To reach deep brain neurological patterns resulting from trauma, practitioners use therapies that employ touch, rhythmic movement, simple play, and a focus on breathing. Crucial to the healing process in these approaches is a therapist who is fully empathetic and nonjudgmental—what Quakers might call a “loving witness.”

Dr. van der Kolk has explored a number of therapeutic methods which help trauma victims get in touch with the deep neural pathways where trauma is imprinted. Eye Movement Desensitivation Reprocessing (EMDR) uses bilateral stimulation—side to side eye movements—to create new neural pathways that connect the traumatized self to the rational being. Somatic therapy is a gentle hands-on therapy which works with imagery rather than ideas, by making gentle physical contact through clothing; Feldenkrais uses slow repetitive, mindful movements to create new mind/body sensibility and awareness. Trauma sensitive yoga starts in the higher brain levels, but uses breath to reach the deeper central nervous system patterns and create new connections between the prefrontal cortex and the limbic brain. Neurofeedback applies electrodes to the skull to stimulate the kind of brain waves known to counter terror or fear. Internal Family Systems therapy uses role play in a contained group setting to re-enact the trauma with nonjudgmental, supportive witnesses.

On Saturday afternoon, FCRP will welcome Joe Weldon and Noel Wight, co-directors of the Somatic Therapy Center in Philadelphia, who will introduce us to transformative touch therapy, which they have spent three decades teaching and administering. Somatic Therapy is a gentle, non-intrusive hands-on technique that helps individuals connect what is happening in their bodies to what is happening in their lives. This deep connection supports the creation of new synapses in the body and mind, opening the way to healing from physical and emotional pain. Joe and Noel’s lectures and experiential demonstrations throughout the rest of the weekend will allow conference participants to see Bessel van der Kolk’s theory of healing from trauma in action.

Bessel van der Kolk is the medical director of the Trauma Research Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Boston and professor of psychiatry at Boston University. He has published extensively in professional journals on the subject of trauma’s interface with dissociative problems, borderline personality issues, self-mutilation, cognitive development, and memory, and on the psychobiology of trauma. His best-selling book, “The Body Keeps the Score” draws on more than four decades of research on trauma and clinical experience with its victims. Dr. van der Kolk travels internationally to present workshops that explore the neurological seat of trauma and the healing process.

Joe Weldon is a licensed clinical psychologist and master somatic therapist. He is co-founder, with his wife Noel, of the Somatic Therapy Center in Philadelphia. He is a deeply experienced guide and teacher of the art of transformative touch, which focuses on the innate wisdom of the body. Joe has taught at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work and Villanova University.

Noel Wight is also a master somatic therapist and co-founder of the Somatic Therapy Center in Philadelphia. She studied extensively with Ilana Rubenfeld, the founder of the Rubenfeld Synergy Method, and has taught with Ilana Rubenfeld, at Omega Institute, and at Esalen. Her extensive background and experience teaching and administering transformative touch daily confirms her belief that the body is a wise ally, guide, and key resource on the path to healing from trauma and becoming whole. Noel has a master’s degree in integrative psychology.



WFCRP Plenary 2018

WinterSunset st Claggett Center
WinterSunset st Claggett Center

Hauntings: Dispelling the Ghosts That Run Our Lives
Plenary Speaker:
James Hollis, PhD

Jim Hollis in Washington DC
James Hollis, PhD

About the Plenary Topic:

Our ancestors believed in ghosts, and perhaps they were not far off the mark as so much of daily life is driven by invisible psychic forces, archaic agendas, and imperious admonitions and prohibitions, all the more powerful because they operate unconsciously.   What are the features of such “hauntings,” and how might we gain some further foothold on a more conscious conduct of life? At t this conference, literary and case studies will illustrate the presence of “hauntings” in people’s lives.  Please bring notepad and pen to the plenary sessions to use in reflecting on the invisible powers which govern your daily life.   

Our learning goals will be to:

  • Learn the significance of “complex” theory as a useful tool in the practice of psychotherapy.
  • Identify means by which “complexes” can be identified through dream work and pattern analysis.
  • Differentiate the utility of psychodynamic therapy from behavioral modification and cognitive restructuring.

About our Plenary Speaker:

James Hollis, Ph. D. is a Zurich-trained, Jungian analyst in private practice in Washington, D. C. where he is also Executive Director of the Jung Society of Washington.  He is the author of fourteen books, most recently, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, What Matters Most, and Hauntings: Dispelling the Ghosts Who Run Our Lives.   Additionally, a new book, Living the Examined Life is due in February of 2018.

Click here to go to the WFCRP Registration Page and register!


FCRP General Information

FCRP Conference Structure

closing ceremony
FCRP Closing


The Conference is divided into PLENARY speeches and INTEREST GROUPS. Each year the FCRP Planning Committee plans future Conferences and vets potential speakers on topics related to Quaker and Jungian thought, new trends in psychology, and individuation, ecology, and peace . We look for the intersections between mind, body and spirit, and what will enrich us our processes of individuation thereby creating a more peaceful world. The Plenary Speaker gives four to five talks on their subject.  Past plenary speakers include Joseph Campbell, Bill Plotkin, Donald Kalsched and Joanna Macy among others.  You can also check the FCRP History page for a list of past speakers.


Saturday and Sunday night feature what are called diversions for those who wish to participate. Saturday night is movie night with movies pertinent to the Plenary or to Jung.  Sunday night usually features our ever popular “No Talent” Talent Show, an FCRP tradition.



Interest Groups are integral to our conference.  FCRP Interest Group leaders are carefully selected and their topics vetted by the Planning Committee. The process that unfolds within the Interest Group—with its ups and downs and insights—is an important part of the FCRP experience. Interest Groups are intended as a personal growth experience, not as therapy.

Groups are limited in size and assigned on a first-come basis. If the group you wish to attend is already filled you will not see it in the list of choices on the Registration form. Choose another group and if you still wish a particular Interest Group you may contact the Registrar to see if an exception can be made.

Interest groups vary in approach and content from academic psychology to meditation, to creative expression; from physical activity such as yoga or tai chi to the “Doing Nothing” group (which has a non-structured approach to the weekend). The groups usually meet four times during the weekend to help deepen the experience of the Plenary talks.


Welcome Friends, Welcome!

The pond at LVC
Peace Garden at LVC

You have discovered one of the best-kept secrets of the Religious Society of Friends. Since 1943, the Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology has gathered annually on Memorial Day Weekend to provide a respite for individuals of all spiritual and religious backgrounds who wish to delve more deeply into their inner lives.

2018 is our 76th year!

FCRP is one of the oldest conferences in the U.S. dedicated to individual spiritual exploration with a focus on in-depth psychology, specifically Jungian psychology. For the better part of the last half-century our Conference was held at Haverford College on Memorial Day weekend. This year our conference will return to the Quaker study center, Pendle Hill, which is next door to Swarthmore College, and where FCRP held some of its earliest conferences. Our speaker will be Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., former professor of psychiatry at Harvard and the author of the best-selling book, THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE: BRAIN, MIND, AND BODY IN THE HEALING OF TRAUMA. Click here to find out more about the May 2018 Conference with Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk.

We also have a smaller Conference in the Washington area (WFCRP) held near the end of February. click here to go to the WFCRP  info page.  Note that James Hollis, PhD,  will be our speaker in February 2018. Registration is now open.  Click here to go to the WFCRP Registration Page

As part of a spiritual community, we seek:

  • To discover our own deepest processes & nourish them
  • To uncover the ways in which our new insights can help us return to the everyday world more focused and grounded in our spiritual reality
  • To explore the dynamics of Quaker principles in group life and to apply them to our daily living

We warmly welcome new members, whether Quaker or not, whether you join us for a single conference or choose to become part of our ever-evolving community and network.

For more information on the history of the Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology, click on the About FCRP page in the menu above. The Articles and Links page gives access to a small library of relevant material.