Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

A Force for Good: the Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World

Posted on: June 27th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

 

 

A FORCE FOR GOOD
The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World
by Daniel Goleman, Random House Canada
(Release date: June 30th, 2015)
Hardcover. $18.50 CAD. 256 pp.
ISBN #978-0-553-39489-4.

 

 

Dalai Lama’s Words:

The fifty-six years since I left Tibet as a
refugee for freedom in India have been
hard for Tibetans including myself.

One instruction from our tradition that
has helped sustain us is to transform
even the most adverse circumstances
into opportunities. In my own case, life
as a refugee has broadened my horizons.
If I had remained in Tibet, I would most
likely have been insulated from the
outside world, shut off from the challenges
of different points of view.

As a human being, I acknowledge that my
well-being depends on others and the
caring of others’ well-being is a moral
responsibility I take seriously.

It’s unrealistic to think that the future of
humanity can be achieved on the basis of
prayer or good wishes alone. We also
need is to take action… (which I attempt
to do as best I can…)

I am also a Buddhist monk, and according
to my experience, all religious traditions
have the potential to convey the message
of love and compassion. So my second
commitment is to foster harmony and
friendly relations between them.

Thirdly, I am a Tibetan, and although I
am retired from political responsibility,
I remain committed to do what I can to
help the Tibetan people, and to preserve
our Buddhist culture and the natural
environment of Tibet – both of which are
under threat of destruction…

I am very happy that my old friend Dan
Goleman has written this book describing
how (my) basic commitments have
unfolded over the past several decades…
He has been very helpful to me and is
well-qualified to express these things
clearly.

We have to (live together and support
one another as humans) but we need to
look at this taking a broad view and a
long-term perspective.

Change takes time.

But if we don’t make the effort, nothing
will happen at all… Real change will
take place (not by governments) but
when individuals transform themselves
guided by the values that lie at the core
of all human ethical systems, scientific
findings,  and common sense… then
each one of us can be a force for good.

– from the Introduction

 

Wikipedia Dalai Lama Bio:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalai_Lama

 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

The Dalai Lama is one of those rare humans
who is steeped in his own ancient traditions
and  in modern global realities. He is grounded
in his own spiritual values, but open to learning
from the spiritual values of others. He is a
person of prayer, but also of action.

People of the religions of Jerusalem – Judaism,
Christianity and Islam – have much to learn
from this representative of an Eastern faith
tradition. We can do this best, I believe, when
we are grounded in our own faiths, but –
like the Dalai Lama himself – are open to
learning from others as well.

The Dalai Lama has always tried hard to help
him find good interpreters of his faith to those
outside it.  In this book, he finds ample support
from a man who is versed in communicating
core values to people within a Western secular
and scientific ethos. That is not to say the Dalai
Lama is unversed in our ways, but that he wants
to communicate with us using the best interpreters
he can find.

In this book, we have a magnificent example of
the convergence of East and West; piety and
politics;  spiritual and secular humanist values.

Reading a volume like this offers good guidance
for the integrating meaning systems in our own
lives, and interpreting them to others.

This is a welcome contribution; written while
the Dalai Lama is still among us as a witness
to universal meaning and truth. He should not
be ignored.

Buy the book from Amazon.ca:
http://tinyurl.com/o7catdv

 

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Colleagues List, Vol. X, No. 44,  June 28th, 2015

Archbishop Welby praises new book on theology and church growth

Posted on: June 15th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

Photo Credit: Lambeth Palace
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

[Lambeth Palace] The Archbishop of Canterbury has praised a new book on theology and church growth for asserting that Jesus Christ alone is the reason for growing churches.

In a foreword to ‘Towards a Theology of Church Growth’, Archbishop Justin Welby says church growth is not about “survival” but about Christians imitating God by reaching out to others and drawing them into relationship with Christ.

He also suggests the modern church growth movement is moving into a “second phrase” that doesn’t focus primarily on formulae and techniques but on “the nature of God himself”.

Edited by David Goodhew and including contributions from a wide range of theologians, the book explores the theological foundations of church growth.

In his foreword the Archbishop writes: “David Goodhew and those who have contributed to this excellent book have started, correctly, with the understanding that any commitment to church growth must be entirely divorced from questions about the survival of the Church.”

He praises the book’s long-term perspective on church history, which he says “demythologises any aspect of a “golden age” in Christendom.”

“Instead, the reader is drawn back to the face of Christ, who alone is the reason for growing churches. Church growth begins with the fact that God reaches out to us in Jesus Christ. Having found us and captured our horizons, Jesus liberates us into a new world in which we are irresistibly drawn to imitate that reaching out.”

The Archbishop also suggests that we are now in the “second phrase” of the current church growth movement.

“Twenty to thirty years ago when the notion was coined afresh in the modern era, it focused very much on matters of technique. To this day we are too easily tempted to follow some formulae which promise that our church will grow – rather than flying in the passion of love for Christ with every sinew of our being, and noting how the slipstream draws others into relationship with him and with all who belong to him.”

The book demonstrates the importance of this second phase, he adds, which “focuses on the nature of God himself. Learning from its previous weaknesses, it recognises how growth is as fundamental as worship to the health of every tradition of the Church.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anglican Communion News Service, ACNS Summary, June 10, 2015

Learning to Walk in the Dark

Posted on: June 8th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

LEARNING TO WALK IN THE DARK
by Barbara Brown Taylor

HarperOne: Toronto, ON  Paperback
March, 2015, 200 pages. $13.50 CAD
ISBN #978-0-06-202434-3

 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

Twenty-five years ago, Toronto-author and
educator Mary Jo Leddy wrote a book which
she entitled “Say to the Darkness – We Beg
to Differ.” That title succinctly implied a
profound defiance of dark and evil forces.

Brief Leddy bio: http://tinyurl.com/pajn539

“Learning to Walk in the Dark” by Barbara
Brown Taylor takes a more nuanced approach.
It recognizes that evil darkness exists, but it
also sees there is value to be gleaned from
the “shadowlands” and the possibility of
learning from them.

Both books take evil darkness seriously.

Leddy’s volume focused strongly on issues of
justice within her own Catholic church at the
time.

Taylor’s effort is a venture in personal growth
and follows in the classic spiritual tradition of
writing on “the dark night of the soul.”

Twenty-five years ago, many of us were quite
sure we knew what was right and wrong about
the gay issue, assisted suicide, marriage,
abuse in male/female relations, etc.

Today, we are probably not so sure and many
of us have moved 180 degrees from stances
strongly taken in the past. Confusion continues.

I believe that Taylor’s book is especially
helpful for people who are inclined to be
ambivalent, pessimistic, or at least overly
cautious by nature.

If you are inclined to react to our times
with a defensive, rather than an open
spirit, I think Taylor can speak especially
to you. She does not ignore or deny the
evil darkness of the world, but she helps
us to confront it and “live through it.”

In truth, Taylor is not really different
from Leddy a quarter century ago. Both
“beg to differ” with the darkness; but
they “differ differently” – and both have
an important message to convey.

Buy the book from Amazon.ca:
http://tinyurl.com/pncmzec

 

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Colleagues List, Vol. X, No. 42,  May 31st, 2015

What the Mystics Know

Posted on: May 14th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

WHAT THE MYSTICS KNOW
Seven Pathways to
Your Deeper Self,

By Richard Rohr

The Crossroad Publishing Company
New York. Released May, 2015
155 pages. $17.25 CAD.
ISBN #978-0824520397

 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

 

My Thoughts:

If you are looking for a book that will help you
understand many essentials of the mystical
religious experience – to say nothing of a
summary of much of what Richard Rohr has
written over a long career – I would like to
suggest you get a copy of this book and spend
time with it. “What the Mystics Know” can
introduce and support you in the wisdom
traditions of humanity’s great faiths.

This book is grounded in the Christian
tradition, but – and because of this – it can
reach considerably beyond it to enhance
and expand that faith. Too many spiritual
leaders dabble in mysticism, cafeteria-style.
The result is a potpourri of “this and that.”
It may sound good, but it lacks grounding –
as well as perspective and true breadth.
Because this book is written by an
experienced mystic, you will avoid a lot
of the pitfalls of so much “junk spirituality”
floating around out there.

This is not to say that Rohr is committed
to “follow the Christian party line.” His
reputation as a challenge to official church
teachings should prepare us to read a
man who has had his confrontations with
authority. But that in itself can be viewed
as evidence of his considerable experience.
A true spiritual prophet for our time will
carry the requisite battle scars, and Rohr
carries them well. Like the true Franciscan
he is, Rohr offers us an “alternative orthodoxy”
or “orthopraxy” that can help us grow within,
and extend beyond our various faith traditions.

Here is a list of the seven “pathways” to
which he devotes a chapter in the book:

1. The enlightenment you see already
dwells within you

2. God is found in imperfection

3. From profound suffering come great
wisdom and joy

4. The mystical path is a celebration of
paradox

5. Contemplation means practicing
heaven now

6. To discover the truth you must
become the truth

7. When you are transformed, others
will be transformed through you

 

There are few spiritual guides alive and
available to us today with the substance
of Richard Rohr. That is why it is good he
keeps on writing, expanding, consolidating
and growing in his faith – and he is eager
to have us accompany him on the journey.

A most helpful book, worth securing.

 

 

Buy the book from Amazon.ca:
http://tinyurl.com/ojn6okq

 

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Colleagues List, Vol. X, No. 39,  May 10th, 2015

Very Good Lives – The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination

Posted on: May 14th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

VERY GOOD LIVES –
The Fringe Benefits of Failure
and the Importance of Imagination

 

By J.K. Rowling

Little, Brown: New York
Released April 14th 2015. Hardcover.
75 pages. $10. CAD.
ISBN #978-0-3126-36915-2.

 

 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

 

My Thoughts:

I am drawn to this book because it is one that
should appeal to a wide range of humanity –
from all cultures and faith traditions.

At the same time, it speaks to people who
may not enjoy the benefits of a democratic
society – like her British one – that offers
a social-safety network not enjoyed, still
today, by too many people on this planet.

Think, for example, of the millions of disaster
victims and refugees who struggle for life
across the face of the earth.

Similar wisdom could probably be offered by
quite a few who have not experienced her
success in life – and the commensurate income
– that she now commands as an author. Still, in
our world, voices like her voice are respected
and convey considerable heft.

(For me, the fact that Rowling found herself
in a tough place, and one that she may not
have ever considered possible for herself,
speaks clearly to my own life experience.)

(When things were lowest for me, I still
realized I enjoyed certain benefits not
experienced by everyone.)

Her difficulties have taught her character,
perseverance and humility which have
attracted her to many – and not just the
privileged hearers who first attended this
public address at Harvard.

There is a sweet irony to a speech like this.
Our world honours success and public acclaim.
Rowling is certainly a worthy recipient of both.
But the fact is – success might never have come
to her had she not decided to follow a certain
path when things were at their worst for her.

Learning from that path is what earns Rowling
the ability to speak to us in her current book.

For personal growth, inspiration, and as a
thoughtful gift to others, this volume deserves
to be read. It also deserves to be returned
to, and re-thought, at various life stages.

 

Buy the book from Amazon.ca:
http://tinyurl.com/nl4ftjv

 

 

 

http://tinyurl.com/q95t3qk

Rowling’s 2008 Commencement address at
Harvard is the most-viewed item on the
Harvard website.

 

 

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Colleagues List, Vol. X, No. 38,  May 3rd, 2015

The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade

Posted on: April 28th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

THE GREAT AND HOLY WAR
How World War I Became
a Religious Crusade
by Philip Jenkins

HarperOne, Toronto.
Paperback Edition, April 28/15
438 pages. $20.00 CAD.
ISBN #978-0-06-210514-1

 

Author’s Words:

The First World War was a thoroughly religious
event, in the sense that overwhelmingly Christian
nations fought each other in what many viewed as
a holy war, a spiritual conflict. Religion is essential
to understanding the war…

However thoroughly Eurocentric the conflict might
appear, in the long term, it transformed not just
the Christianity of the main combatant nations,
but also other great faiths, especially Judaism and
Islam… The Great War redrew the world’s religious
map as we know it today…

Advancing the nation’s cause and interests is
indistinguishable from promoting God’s cause…
the holy war framework defines attitudes to the
role of the armed forces and the conduct of combat
operations. That nation should broadly accept the
idea that military action has a sanctified character,
equal or superior to any of the other works approved
by that religion… we can confidently speak of a
powerful and consistent strain of holy war ideology
during the Great War years… all the main participant
nations placed Christ himself on the battle lines…
The war began as a clash of messianic visions…
(involving Muslims and Jews as well as Christians.)
For both sides, the Great War was a day and night
conflict against cosmic evil…

The German approach to the war still stands out
for its widespread willingness to identify the
nation’s cause with God’s will… However tempted
we may be to consider such militaristic pastors
to the demagogic fringe, we find near-identical
sentiments from some of Germany’s greatest
thinkers and theologians, and this at a time when
the country could plausibly claim cultural and
spiritual leadership in the Christian world… holy
war views were advocated by some of the most
respected mainline clergy…

In modern times, radical Muslim clergy and
activists have often sighted religious justifications
for violence, to the extent that many Jews and
Christians even doubt that Islam is a religion,
rather than a militaristic doomsday cult. Yet,
Christian leaders in 1914 to 1918 likewise gave
an absolute religious underpinning to warfare
conducted by the states that were seen as
executing the will of God and they used well-known
religious terms to contextualize acts of violence…
both (Christians and Islamists) have shared a
common symbolism of sword and shield… such
ideas gave an overwhelming spiritual dimension
to worldly conflict and aroused expectations of
gigantic cosmic changes lying on the horizon…

(Apocalyptic ideas exercised a special power and
the common people were profoundly influenced
by these end times images. Images of Armageddon
messianic and millenarian developments underlay
the great revolutions that swept the world in the
immediate aftermath of the war to the extent that
often bypassed the mainline churches… for
example, totalitarianisms such as Nazism and
Communism, and this forced the Catholic and
Protestant churches to come to terms with a
new political world as the ancient church-state
alliance was widely replaced by new forms of
separation and independence.)

(This had a widespread impact as European religion
became a global phenomenon. Christianity, Judaism
and Islam had to adapt to a changing world brought
about by developments that emerged in the wake
of the Great War.)

Without appreciating its religious and spiritual
aspects, we cannot understand the First World
War. More important though, modern religious
history makes no sense except in the context of
that terrible conflict.

The war created our reality.

– from the Introduction

 

Author’s Bio:

Philip Jenkins is in 2013 the Distinguished
Professor of History at Baylor University and
Co-Director for Baylor’s Program on Historical
Studies of Religion in the Institute for Studies
of Religion. He is also the Edwin Erle Sparks
Professor of Humanities Emeritus at
Pennsylvania State University. He was
Professor and a Distinguished Professor
of History and Religious studies at the same
institution; and also assistant, associate and
then full professor of Criminal Justice and
American Studies at PSU, 1980–93.

Wikipedia Bio: http://tinyurl.com/cs4tjg

 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

During the years 2014-18 many videos, books
and articles are appearing on the First World War
(WWI). These presentations take various themes,
but not many of them deal with the profound
subject of faith associated with that great conflict.

Jenkins’ book “The Great and Holy War” elucidates
the religious and spiritual dimension of WWI in a
special way and is uniquely worthy of our attention
amid all the other available material.

Of considerable import is the way common Christian
and holy war themes were utilized by both sides
in the conflict. Because of significant questions
arising from that development in the early twentieth
century, a growing religious and secular peace
movement began to emerge. This movement
countered religious and secular justification for
war and violence to an extent that has grown,
not abated, into our own times.

The new atheist critique of religious involvement
in war and violence has prompted a serious
re-thinking of how religion engaged politics,
economics, etc. since WWI. Karen Armstrong’s
book “Fields of Blood: Religion and the History
of Violence” – is one response. The current book
by Jenkins is another. From the reading of both
studies, it is not difficult to see how closely religion
and warfare have been integrated and implicated
into our modern experience.

Three of the world’s great religions – Judaism,
Christianity and Islam – were drawn into serious
conflict as a result of that war. That led to larger
abuses in World War Two and the era following.
When Christians are quick to judge the Israelis
in the Palestinian conflict and so-called Muslim
terrorism today, we need not look back that far
into history to see very scary skeletons in our
own closet.

Another important discovery for me has been the
way the great religions have been forced to
rethink their role in the world as a result of what
WWI prompted. Finding a common, constructive
religious response to the past evils we supported, 
is a redemptive way to engage the future.

Lessons learned from WWI and its interpreters
like Philip Jenkins can set faith-based people
from many traditions and around the world
on a new and constructive course in the service
of humanity.

 

Buy the book from Amazon.ca:
http://tinyurl.com/mtwhotl

 

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Colleagues List, Vol. X, No. 37,  April 26th, 2015

How to read the Bible: An interview with legendary theologian Harvey Cox

Posted on: April 20th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

How to read the Bible: An interview with legendary theologian Harvey Cox (link is external)

 

Religion News Service: While there is no single right way to read the Scripture, some ways are better than others, says the iconic theologian in an interview about his new book, “How to Read the Bible.” _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, April 15, 2015

Islam’s Jesus

Posted on: April 19th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

ISLAM’S JESUS
by Zeki Saritoprak

University Press of Florida
Paperback edition, April 2015
222 pages. $28.95 CAD
ISBN #978-0-8130-6178-8

 

 

Author’s Bio:

Zeki Saritoprak is associate professor in the
Department of Theology and Religious Studies
and the Beddiüzaman Said Nursi Chair in Islamic
Studies at John Carroll University, Cleveland OH.

He is the author of numerous works on Islamic
theology in English, Turkish, and Arabic.

 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

There is nothing like hearing the author of a
book like this introduce his arguments in
person, and engaging in debate with his
audience. Several months ago I had the
opportunity to do this when Zeki Saritoprak
spoke to a group of about 60 people (many
of whom were Muslim) in the church I serve
and attend in Calgary.

The author attempts to approach Jesus
theologically, and from a Muslim perspective,
but with the primary intent of encouraging
dialogue with Christians.

In that regard, it does not require a
three-way discussion which would include
Jews, but Jews would certainly be welcome
to participate.

The book is written so that both Christians
and Muslims can understand it. It is not
so much a comparative scripture study,
or a religious studies presentation as it
is an attempt to simplify the process of
gleaning key theological insights about
Jesus, found in the Qur’anic tradition,
so that at least Muslims and Christians
understand Jesus better.

This exchange would differ from a dialogue
between Jews and Christians. We share a
similar biblical canon in the Hebrew Bible,
even though Jews do not accept the New
Testament as their sacred scripture.

When engaging Muslims, Christians will
encounter sacred texts with which they
are not familiar – the Qur’an and Hadith
(Muhammad’s commentary on the Qur’an.)
Muslims, on the other hand, accept both
Hebrew and New Testaments as sacred;
only they believe their own scriptures
supersede them, just as Muhammad
supersedes Jesus as a prophet.

Of course, both Jews and Muslims do
not accept, as Christians do, that
Jesus is God. That would require quite
a different dialogue.

But after some of these ground rules
are laid out, there continues to be
much room for discussion and mutual
enlightenment on the subject of Jesus.

We will discover that, after centuries
of mutual isolation – indeed antagonism –
we are entering an new era of mutual
engagement.

This approach is truly a pathfinder effort
in the potentially rich engagement of Muslims
and Christians. It should contribute greatly to
a rapprochement.

I encourage you to locate, read, and
share a copy of this important work.

 

Buy the book from Amazon.ca
http://tinyurl.com/pjfrkaq

 

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Colleagues List, Vol. X, No. 36,  April 19th, 2015

 

The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

Posted on: April 11th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere
By Pico Iyer

Simon & Schuster, a TED Original, 2014
ISBN: 978174678472-4
74 pages

 

TED talk is available at go.ted.com/stillness.

 

Nowhere, Pico Iyer claims, is the most interesting destination.

Iyer, a travel writer by trade, makes this pronouncement in a new work, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere. The book accompanies a 15-minute TED talk, and runs only 74 pages—compact enough to finish in one sitting.

He describes having, as a young man, a dream job as a global affairs writer at Time magazine in New York City. The lifestyle was frenetic and, oddly, gave him pause: “Something inside me felt that I was racing around so much that I never had a chance to see where I was going, or to check whether I was truly happy.”

He quit, and went to Kyoto, Japan. In his single room on a back alley in the ancient city, the thrill of open time stretched out before him “like a meadow.” He was hooked.

Kyoto set him on a life path with recurring trips to “nowhere,” even as he made his living by going places.

What drew him back?

“I felt the liberation of not needing to take my thoughts, my ambitions, myself—so seriously,” he writes. He returned from these sojourns refreshed, whether “nowhere” meant practising stillness at home, visiting a monastery or claiming the hours of a long flight for no agenda at all. Stillness brought new acuity to his art, and cultivated a happiness that motivates the book.

“I don’t claim to have any answers,” Iyer offers, with unconvincing modesty. It’s unconvincing because the work has the marks of a manifesto. Without claiming any religious faith—though clearly influenced by Buddhism—he defends stillness for both its intangible pleasures and practical benefits.

“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.”

Most wanderers in harried modern life feel the intuitive truth and pull of his thesis, but actually doing it seems elusive. Many apparently need a more compelling “why” before embarking en masse to nowhere.

The Art of Stillness offers health and happiness as the main rewards of stillness. In contrast, many Christian practitioners of stillness identify a deeper “why” behind their regular pouring out of the mad rush. Emptying, for them, is neither an end in itself nor simply a means to personal happiness. For the disciple of Christ, it promises a refilling with his mind and heart, in order to be his hands and feet to the world. Augustine writes early in Confessions, “Thou has created us for thyself, and our heart knows no rest, until it find repose in thee.” Solitude and stillness, however enjoyable, cannot on their own redeem our restlessness.

Iyer’s conclusion could perhaps be stronger if he highlighted the “why” of stillness beyond personal development. But it remains convincing. His writing is winsome and clear. His credentials as a travel writer give him special authority, and he successfully sells the importance of going nowhere.

“In an age of constant movement,” he writes, “nothing is more urgent than sitting still.”

Wise words.

 

Michael Wightman is a journalist based in Saint John’s, N.B.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anglican Journal News, April 10, 2015

Henry David Thoreau: Spiritual and Prophetic Writings

Posted on: April 8th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

HENRY DAVID THOREAU
Spiritual and Prophetic Writings
Edited with Intro by Tim Flinders

Modern Spiritual Masters Series
Orbis Books, Maryknoll NY
February, 2015. 196 pages.
Paper $34.50 CAD. Kindle $9.99 CAD.
ISBN #978-1-62698-110-2.

 

 

Editor’s Comments:

In 1848, Henry Thoreau mentioned the idea
of retreating into the wilderness, anticipating
a two-year sojourn at Walden Pond (just south
of Concord MA) where he lived.

In an letter exchange with a friend he talked of
“sundering himself from society for this time,
from the spell of institutions, customs, and
conventionalities, that I might lead a fresh,
simple life with God, without and within.” (and)

“I do believe that the outward and inward life
correspond. I do believe in simplicity.”

Thoreau had been educated at Harvard, in Boston,
just east of Concord. He encountered the work of
New England transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo
Emerson, also of Concord. and was smitten by his
call for personal freedom and living in accord with
nature and the inner voice of conscience – radical
views for a culture of the time that was saturated
with an authoritarian Calvinist ideology.

After graduation, Thoreau wrote: “Let men, true
to their natures, cultivate the moral affections,
lead manly and independent lives… Let them make
riches the means, not the end, of existence.”

Thoreau met and cultivated a friendship with
Emerson, who introduced the young man to
many leading writers and intellectuals of the
day.

It was most likely that Emerson suggested
Thoreau keep a journal, a decision that would
contribute significantly to his ultimate reputation
as a writer, social critic and naturalist. Over the
years that journal would serve multiple functions
as a record of his thoughts and impressions,
especially of the natural world. He included there
a rich detail of his empirical observations of plants,
animals and other aspects of nature he encountered
in his daily walks and at the pond.

His spiritual questing led him to mystics of many
ages and he was drawn to medieval Catholic writers
previously unknown to  him because of Protestant
sectarianism and narrow thinking. He was particularly
fond of Augustine, Teresa of Avila and Meister Eckhart.

He was also a pioneer in the study of spiritualities
in non-Christian faith traditions.

Thoreau rejected the Christian redemptive
theology in which he was raised and said:

“God prefers that you approach him as thoughtful,
not penitent… though you are the chief of sinners.”

We may regard Thoreau as a literary stylist of
the first rank, a penetrating social critic, a skilled
and intuitive naturalist, a philosopher. At heart,
however, he was a spiritual seeker.

“My profession,” he would say, “is always to
find God in nature.” Thoreau’s most famous book
and core of his lasting legacy is “Walden” (1854)

– edited from the Introduction

 

Read his Wikipedia bio:
http://tinyurl.com/pnwun

 

 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

I first encountered the writings of Thoreau during
the 1960’s in a revealing course on American literature
taught by Dr. Flora Roy, professor of English and the
first woman dean of an Ontario college department.
Today the school is known as Wilfrid Laurier University.

Roy really helped Thoreau speak to me. But at the time
I was not readily able to understand what the man was
talking about. Transcendentalism seemed so distant
to the Christianity I knew, and Thoreau’s nature
reflections seemed a bit strange to a youth brought
up and still living in small town, rural Ontario close
to nature.

But Thoreau has remained an enticing voice for
me. Three years ago, Marlene and I spent a whole
day in Concord MA. We visited the Alcott house,
the Unitarian Church, and indeed, Walden Pond.
So much of my life almost fifty years earlier
came back to me, as with much more experience
I could associate these sights with a world that
was much different for me now.

(Concord is also famous for Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
and as a birthplace of American democracy, but those
stories are for another time.)

As with many books in the Orbis Modern Spiritual
Masters Series, “Henry David Thoreau – Spiritual
and Prophetic Writings” is a worthy introduction
to his story and his work as an eco-spiritualist
and social justice advocate.

It took a hundred years for many people to come
to understand him better and to see him as a
prophet for our time, not just an historical figure.

The book includes selections from many of his
key writings under the categories of – journal
and letters, essentials, spiritual life, sacred nature,
God, religion and the times, essays, and of course,
Walden.

I know of no better or convenient introduction
to this early American genius than this book.

Thanks again to Orbis and friends like colleague
Robert Ellsberg for bringing it to us in 2015.

 

Buy the book from Amazon.ca:
http://tinyurl.com/pwxuyeg

 

From Orbis Publications:
http://tinyurl.com/qad54o4

 

 

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Colleagues List, Vol. X, No. 33,  March  29th, 2015