Scholar of religion | Theorist of the human condition
how do we cope with being human?
My name is Stefani Ruper, and I am a theorist of the human condition and scholar of the modern spiritual landscape. Basically, I study what it means to be human and how people deal with it.
I ended up like this because I began suffering from panic attacks about dying and the meaning of life when I was four years old. Trying to sleep at night meant beating my head into the mattress, tearing my hair out in little clumps, and springing out of bed and pacing around my room like a caged animal.
This experience catapulted me into a full-blown, life-long obsession with some of our biggest and toughest questions: who are we? Why are we here? Why do we have spiritual needs, how do they affect us as individuals, and how do they affect our communities and nations?
I’ve spent decades in libraries and laboratories, travelling the world, and generally observing how life unfolds with this deeply existential perspective. Now with eleven years of training in both the sciences and the humanities, I am completing at PhD in the religion and science cohort of the University of Oxford in England, with a dissertation on the religious qualities of science.
Today my primary area of interest is in the modern spiritual landscape. The spiritual, I argue, is spilling over into the secular. People are turning away from traditional religion and are finding spiritual fulfillment in all kinds of unorthodox and unusual things: science, activism, shopping, social media. My job is to find out how, and why,
So I research two primary things: human nature – with a focus on our spiritual nature and how we cope with being human – and also the changing shape of spirituality in the modern world. The latter I particularly enjoy studying through the lens of spiritual influencers on Instagram, who shed important light on how traditional divides between the sacred and the mundane are collapsing. Influencers also reveal how identity economics, branding, gender, race, and audiovisual media are influencing spirituality on a whole new level.
Insofar as I am a scholar, I am only this because I believe having the courage to ask questions is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and the planet. I am not just here as a thinker but as a human who has known real darkness, who has peered over the edge of her sanity, who has struggled to make sense of things, who has failed, who has felt broken, who has learned how to put pieces back together, and who believes the thing that will ultimately save us is our indominable will—our refusal to give up or go gently into any good night.
It would be an honor if you would join me in the quest to better know human nature, so that we may become the best possible versions of ourselves. You can read some things I have written here, and can listen to or watch Naked Humanity. You can join in the discussion, ask questions, and make comments on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, or subscribe to occasional email updates.
With fire and love,