Being Called

Scientific, Secular, and Sacred Perspectives

by David Bryce Yaden, Theo D. McCall, and J. Harold Ellens, Editors
Introduction by Martin Seligman


Those who view their work as a calling rather than just "a job" report higher life satisfaction.

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Cover image for Being Called

August 2015


Pages 314
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Religion/General

This unique book is an essential resource for interdisciplinary research and scholarship on the phenomenon of feeling called to a life path or vocation at the interface of science and religion.

According to Gallup polls, more than 40 percent of Americans report having had a profound religious experience or awakening that changed the direction of their life. What are the potential mental, spiritual, and even physical benefits of following the calling to take a particular path in life? This standout book addresses the full range of calling experiences, from the "A-ha!" moments of special insight, to pondering what one is meant to do in life, to intense spiritual experiences like Saint Paul on the road to Damascus.

Drawing upon the collective knowledge and insight of expert authors from Australia, China, Eastern Europe, Italy, the UK, and the United States, the work provides a comprehensive examination of the topic of callings suitable for collegiate students, professors, and professional scholars interested in topics at the interface of science and religion. It will also benefit general readers seeking the expertise of psychologists, neuroscientists, and theologians from various backgrounds and worldviews who explain why it is important to "do what you were meant to do."


  • Offers religious, spiritual, scientific, and secular avenues of understanding experiences of calling
  • Creates an opening for a new dialogue between psychology and spirituality
  • Provides readers with sound, practical advice on how to find one's own calling or ideal direction in life in the modern world
  • Includes contributions by well-known scholars and scientists such as Dr. Martin Seligman, who discovered learned helplessness and founded positive psychology; Dr. Andrew Newberg, who pioneered the neuroscience of spiritual experiences; and Dr. Ralph Hood, a renowned expert on mystical experiences
Author Info

David Bryce Yaden is a research fellow and assistant instructor at The University of Pennsylvania in the Positive Psychology Center, under the direction of Dr. Martin Seligman. He works in collaboration with neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg of Thomas Jefferson University and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at The University of Pennsylvania. Yaden provides public health education and consulting with a focus on end-of-life care and stress management techniques at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center and serves as a Humanist Chaplain for Rutgers University. His research focus is the psychology and cognitive neuroscience of the varieties of self-transcendent and spiritual experiences.

Theo D. McCall, PhD, is the chaplain of St Peter's College, an Anglican school for boys in Adelaide, Australia. His work focuses on the links between ecology and eschatology; the connections between positive psychology and Christianity, from a systematic theology perspective, but with a keen interest in interfaith dialogue; and how "hope" and the future—which in the Christian tradition finds one expression in eschatology—links to different faith traditions.

J. Harold Ellens, PhD, has held 15 pastorates, military and civilian, and taught full-time at Oakland University and as adjunct at Calvin Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, Oakland Community College, Wayne County Community College, Wayne State University, and the Ecumenical Theological Seminary. He is the author, coauthor, or editor of 235 books and 178 professional journal articles. His published work includes Praeger's The Destructive Power of Religion: Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; The Healing Power of Spirituality: How Faith Helps Humans Thrive; Miracles: God, Science, and Psychology in the Paranormal; and Psychology and the Bible: A New Way to Read the Scriptures. For 15 years, Ellens was executive director of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies and founding editor and editor in chief of Journal of Psychology and Christianity. Ellens holds a doctoral degree in psychology from Wayne State University as well as a doctorate in biblical studies from the University of Michigan.



Being Called explores the uncharted scientific territory of how profound inner experiences can bring meaning and purpose. Eminent scientists and scholars share their own perspectives and offer insights on how to make sense of callings in our lives." —Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take

“This fascinating book sheds much-needed light on what it means to find a calling in life—an experience that, although timeless and universal, has not been understood well in the human sciences. Through valuable insights from leaders in theology, philosophy, and contemporary psychology, the authors add greatly our knowledge of this essential component of the examined life.”—Dr. William Damon is professor of education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and author of Good Work and The Path to Purpose.

“Some people work at jobs, but others have callings. Calling can endow work with considerable meaning and thereby enrich a large portion of life. This book offers diverse, thoughtful, and engaging perspectives on being called. It is a rich and enlightening exploration of a common but often neglected aspect of human life—and one that holds the promise of enabling people to be happier, healthier, and more productive.”—Dr. Roy F. Baumeister, author of Meanings of Life

Being Called is an important, groundbreaking book. Until now the claim of “being called” has fallen on deaf ears of both social scientists and vocational counselors.”—George E. Vaillant, MD, and Diane M. Highum, MD

"Being Called is a far-reaching scientific collection on callings. Incorporating insights from neuroscience, psychology, as well as Eastern and Western spiritual traditions, this book takes both a personal and scholarly look at the events that impart profound meaning and purpose to our lives. A great book for anyone interested in a cross-disciplinary perspective on these experiences."—Harold G. Koenig, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, associate professor of medicine, and director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina

Being Called is a groundbreaking work of scholarship on one of the most important issues that each and every person faces: How to find a transcendent meaning in life. This book, always engaging and often delightful to read, sheds light on that fundamental question with insights from psychology, neuroscience, and theology. Anyone who has ever wondered 'what should I do with my life?' will find nuggets of wisdom and inspiration in this important work.”—Emily Esfahani Smith, writer, The Atlantic; columnist, The New Criterion

"Being Called skillfully weaves together a chorus of scientific, theological, and deeply personal voices—voices that reflect the diverse ways in which people experience a sense of calling in their lives. This is a refreshing, thought-provoking, timely book on an exciting topic, one that has too often been overlooked within scholarly circles."
—Julie Exline, PhD, professor, department of Psychological Sciences, Case Western Reserve University

“This is a rare, inspiring book. Leading academics discuss and push the boundaries of how we understand the meaning of being called—and where this calling may come from. It should be mandatory reading in psychology and religious studies programs.”—Miguel Farias, DPhil (Oxford), Director of the Brain, Belief and Behavior research group at Coventry University and author of The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You?

“This is a fascinating book on what it means to be called, to have a calling, and to answer the call that comes from within. It is a rich tapestry of views on living an inspired life from a place that is deeper than mere pragmatics.” —Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD, is a Zen priest, anthropologist, and author of Being With Dying, who has served on the faculty of Columbia University, the University of Miami School of Medicine, the New School for Social Research, and Naropa University.

“As we try to assemble a genuinely global wisdom, it is good that this theme of 'calling' is being investigated from such diverse perspectives in a context which promises the possibility of a fruitful conversation.”—The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Richard Chartres KCVO DD FSA, Bishop of London

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