The Rise Of Spiritual Apps

By: Wilbert Parks
August 02
The Rise Of Spiritual Apps

For centuries, spiritual practices meant seated meditations, and steady, controlled breaths: rituals which help us draw from the exterior and look within. Now, however, in a tech-crazed era, we could get a feeling of spirit using small icons on our phones.

Nearly 1,000 meditation programs are now available, with large players such as Headspace ushering in 16 million downloads as of last year and raising almost $100 million in investments. Others such as Calm, Insight Timer, and Aura will also be encouraging huge numbers of individuals through every stage of the meditation journeys. This rise of meditation programs, and app culture generally (in the last month, 2.2 million mobile apps were available for iOS download), has generated far from niche spiritual offerings to appear on our screens too. Golden Thread Tarot enables users "mirror the digital experience with the physical" by programming their tarot decks into a mobile variant they can call on at any time. ILuna allows downloaders monitor the moon during its stages and provides guidance about the best way to live in greater communion with this natural cycle. Most recently came Co-Star, a sleek astrology app which enables users to get their natal charts and compare them with their friends'. When it first launched late last year, it repeatedly crashed due to demand--over 1,000 downloads an hour at times. The app, which uses NASA data to generate personalized daily horoscopes, continues to appeal to millennials craving a new wave of astrology: one that is easily accessible, stylish, and shareable.

Banu Guler, one of the app's co-creators, says that, unlike other forms of social media that can spur feelings of jealousy and insecurity, Co-Star can help people relate to one another from a more authentic, stripped-down place. "These days, people are using astrology to talk about who they are and how they're different from others in a super-nonthreatening way," she tells mbg.

When asked how she felt about the increasing digitization of age-old practices like astrology, Guler said that she thought it was only the beginning. "When people are getting their iPhones fixed, they almost look like broken humans. Technology is touching every aspect of our lives; it is merely a matter of time until everything becomes a sort of technological variant of itself"

Technology can overwhelm us; that much has been proved. A constant ping of emails, texts, and notifications is not conducive to any kind of mindfulness. There's certainly irony in the idea that the very thing that is stressing us out is also becoming a means of reprieve and reconnection. But maybe it's not always a bad thing.

After downloading Co-Star a few weeks ago, I found value in it immediately, but not in the way I was expecting. While reading through my daily horoscope in the morning was an entertaining way to start the day, it started to make me anxious for the hours that lay ahead. When I saw"challenges" pop up in my forecast, it was like a roadblock had appeared before I had even left my flat. But, reading my horoscope at night provided a sort of frame for reflection. It forced me to consider what had transpired across my home, social, and work life more than I likely would have otherwise. This manner, it has turned into a bit like a diary or gratitude practice--gradually winding down to examine what had occurred, then discharge it.

When used like this -- judiciously and in comparison to other, IRL soulful practices -- religious programs may add 21st-century advantage to a few of our most cherished and strong practices. But, technology still retains an inherent risk and apps can easily strip a religious practice into something unrecognizable. Like all other technology, they will need to be used responsibly, as a backup but not a crutch. So proceed and use your telephone to pull a tarot spread or have a look at your date's rising sign, but perhaps consider turning it on plane mode afterward.