Category Archives: spiritual

The Origins of FCRP

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

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 an 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 to be 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,” 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 members 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 campuses. 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 at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania where it would remain for twenty-seven years.

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 ( the same Terasina Rowel above), 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 2018 Interest Groups

Campus at Pendle Hill
Pendle Hill Campus

Interest Groups 

Facilitator: Jane Byerley

With the theme of “the body keeps the score,” there is an abundance of poetry we can examine. Many poets reflect in their work the trauma of their earlier lives, and often in terms of the effect on the body—we may “sing the body electric.” In this group we will look at a group of pre-selected poems, but I also invite group members to bring copies of any poems they want to review. We will reflect, journal, and discuss as seems to suit the group.
Mode: Discussion, poetry reading, writing.

Jane Byerley has studied C.G. Jung in study groups for 25 years and is a member of the board of the Jung Society of Washington. She has worked as a psychotherapist and as a management consultant. She completed graduate work in both English literature and in social work. She is on the planning committee of FCRP and is clerk of the Washington Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology (WFCRP).

Facilitators: John DiMino and Liza O’Hanlon DiMino

Mimesis is a unique group process that allows for the exploration of myth in both the individual and in mythology. When we explore a story or a myth in Mimesis, we invite participants to enter it in stages: First by listening deeply; then through meditation; next through an enactment; and finally through discussion. Each step reveals universal or archetypal elements.
Participants also have their own personal relationship to the chosen stories because of each person’s unique history. This means that both the universal and personal dimensions of experience are available to be worked on.
The stories we have chosen to work with in this group over the weekend demonstrate and symbolize the transformation of both mind and body after trauma and the pathways to healing that can follow.
Mode: Myth participation, listening, meditation, discussion.

John DiMino, Ph. D. and Liza O’Hanlon DiMino have been doing Mimesis workshops for more than three decades. John, a licensed clinical psychologist, is director of Tuttleman Counseling Services at Temple University. Liza is a writer and editor. John and Liza are co-directors of the Mimesis Center in Philadelphia.

Facilitator: Beth Perry

The first instruction in tai chi is to relax. We learn how to do less, yet become more present and assured in our body’s movement. We learn to listen to our bodies, rather than instruct them, as we feel our feet on the ground, line things up, untie our joints, and use only the least amount of effort necessary.
Tai chi is an ancient martial art, yet its practice allows us to achieve calm balance, and a relaxed demeanor towards outward challenges in our daily lives. Movement becomes less of an effort and more of an easy process as we sink into our bodies and attend to what they have to say to us.
Come see what doing less, and attending more, can do.
Mode: Tai chi.

Beth Perry began study of Cheng Man Ching’s Yang form of tai chi in the early 1980s, beginning with his student Maggie Newman, then continued her student in Dr. Tao’s workshops as well as many other inspiring teachers. She is a student of the martial arts application of ‘push hands’. Beth teaches tai chi in retirement homes, adult education schools, senior centers, and at Friends Center in Philadelphia. She has worked in Uganda and southern Sudan, and done famine relief and anti-apartheid work with the American Friends Service Committee and the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Beth is a member of Radnor PA Friends meeting.

Facilitator: Martha Witebesky

The immature brain is unable to recognize and fully process the strong emotions of early trauma. These experiences are lodged in the unconscious and continue to affect our behavior and perception in the present. The meditative writing method allows us to remove these distorting influences by treating them with openness and equanimity. It is a mindful process which allows us to begin to connect with and work through old material by pouring clarity into the experience of the moment. This meditative state does not necessarily require recalling specific memories and traumas; but the calm and balm of the flow through the writing in effect trickles down to the unconscious to the repressed pool of poison and pain. Meditative writing can allow us to dredge up and process the material and enable us to remove its distorting influence by treating it with openness and equanimity.
Mode: Writing to gentle Baroque music, sharing if one wishes to.

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

Facilitator: Walter Brown
This group provides a chance to discuss the plenary talks in depth. We will take a look at what Bessel van der Kolk has to say and our reactions. We will also consider the material in his book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma. We will discuss as well the presentations on Transformative Touch by Noel Wight & Joe Weldon. We also can let Spirit lead us where It will.
Mode: Sharing, discussion.

Walter Brown Walter Brown is a lifelong Quaker and licensed clinical social worker who practiced psychotherapy for thirty-eight 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 professionally. Walter and his wife Carole have served on the planning committees for WFCRP & FCRP. They attend Langley Hill Friends Meeting in McLean, Virginia.

Facilitator: Susan Burger
It can be said that there are three brains in the body: the head, the heart, and the brain in the belly. Our culture is biased toward the brain centered in the head, which we put in charge of our lives and decisions. Such an orientation can result in our feeling separate–from our own bodies, from one another, and the world.
In this group we will explore how to experience the brain in the belly and how to ground our energy in the pelvic bowl. We will discover how presence is felt here and how that reveals a new harmony with everything.
We will explore four themes: breath, rest, receptivity, and integration. Through a series of simple practices, we come to experience what it means to unite the thinking in the head with the deep intelligence of the body, which attunes to wholeness. This “radical wholeness” allows us to integrate our experiences and perceptions, traumas and joys, to the deeply felt flow of life’s reality.
Mode: Exercises: breathing, movement, body-awareness, discussion of connectedness.
Susan Burger is a certified practitioner of Neuro-Emotional Technique—a body/mind stress release technique. She has studied the healing practices of: The Embodied Present Process and is a facilitator of the Radical Wholeness work of Philip Shepherd. Susan is a doctor of chiropractic medicine and holistic health.

Facilitator: Rebecca Narva
When we move to music, we effortlessly integrate our senses of sight, sound, touch, physical sensations and social connection all at once in the natural and joyous human activity of dance! In this introduction to the Nia Technique, we invite our bodies, minds and emotions to experience harmony within ourselves and with others through easy, safe movements from martial arts, dance, and healing arts. By doing simple rhythmic movement (which requires no movement training) we create a joyful community experience. Through Nia, we can experience ourselves fully, as we move, think, and feel in synchronicity with others. Wellness, freedom, and personal growth are the result. Nia is suitable for all fitness levels and can be done in bare feet. All participants are invited to move with comfort and according to their unique body’s way.
Mode: Simple movement to rhythmic music.

Rebecca Narva has taught movement for 25 years. She is a certified Nia black belt instructor and a certified Hendricks Health and Wellness coach in Body-Centered Transformation. She completed graduate work in fine arts in educational theater and was Resident Healthcare Chaplain at New York Presbyterian Hospital on the Inpatient Psychiatric Unit.

Facilitator: Randy Goldberg
Family constellations work helps you connect with and correct the past so you can move forward with inner peace. It helps to reveal the hidden dynamics which often are running your life. Entanglements with roots in the past often continue to influence and have an impact on the present generation. Family constellations work allows us to see how we are bound to others by deep bonds of loyalty; this work allows the hidden to come to light. The Family Constellation method 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, Randy is also a Craniosacral therapist and an astrologer.

Facilitator: Leah Gooch
The real opposite of love is fear. In love one expands, in fear one shrinks. In fear one becomes closed, in love one opens. ―Osho
Using gentle movements and guided meditation we will cultivate a safe and inspiring space to create a four-step acrylic painting inspired by introspective exercises and creative writing. Participants are encouraged to have a vested interest in exploring the internal landscape and openness to witness unexpected answers to contemplative questions. All levels of experience in painting, yoga, meditation, and writing are welcome, including none!
Mode: painting, writing, discussion, meditation, and mindful movement.

Leah Gooch teaches meditation-infused yoga classes to adults and children, including Parkinson’s Disease patients and justice-involved men and women at the Ulster County Jail. She taught art to children in New York City for eight years and completed graduate and undergraduate work in art education. Her experience has shown her how practicing yoga and meditation increases one’s ability to connect with one’s breath and body, thus approaching a deeper awareness of one’s existence.


Facilitator: Deborah Shayne Hughes
Bessel van der Kolk uses a number of “go to” techniques to take us out of the disembodied state of past trauma and back into our body in the present. Each of the three sessions of this interest group will introduce a different method of calming and self-soothing which we can use any time–not just in the presence of a facilitator. I will provide background on and we also will experience the methods of: tapping and sounding; trauma-sensitive awareness through movement (Feldenkrais); and the meditative and relaxation practice Yoga Nidra. Each of these methods is gentle and guaranteed to be effective over time. Each method also has depth-psychological and whole-person functioning as its goal. Hand-outs will allow you to take these simple techniques home with you, for use anywhere.
Mode: Awareness through movement, tapping and sounding, yoga Nidra, discussion.

Deborah Shayne Hughes , a former librarian and storyteller, is a graduate of both Bessel van der Kolk’s Trauma Center at the Justice Research Institute in Boston and the Feldenkrais Center in Baltimore. She teachers trauma-sensitive yoga and awareness through Movement. She is a long-time student of Jungian psychology, including study the embodied feminine work of Marion Woodman. She first attended FCRP in 1989.




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 has completed.  Check out the WFCRP 2018  Plenary, Interest Group, Schedule and Registration pages for information on the past Conference and information on WFCRP 2019 as we complete our planning for that event.

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.


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 Talks

The 76th Annual

Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology


Memorial Day Weekend – May 25 – May 28, 2018




Bessel van der Kolk


of the Somatic Therapy Center in Philadelphia

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 director of the Trauma Research Center 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.   Anyone wishing to know more about Bessel’s current work and his recent departure as medical director of the Justice Resource Institute can visit his web site.

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  at Omega Institute, Kripalu, 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 for more information on the Conference past.


Welcome Friends, Welcome!

Picture of ancient tree at Pendle Hill
Great roots at Pendle Hill

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 in the spring 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 2018 Registration has filled, but you may add your name to a short waiting list, which we will draw on with cancellations.  See the Registration page and also please click here to read a letter from our Co-Clerks, Mara and Gary.

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. Since 1972, our conference has been held on Memorial Day weekend. This year we 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.

For more details about costs and registration for the May 2018 conference at Pendle Hill, go to the registration page,  click here. 

We also have a smaller conference in the Washington area (WFCRP) held near the end of February. click here WFCRP  with plenary speaker Richard Hollis was held February 16-18, 2018.

As part of a spiritual community, we seek:

  • To discover our own deepest processes and to 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.