Canterbury Press, 2009, 256pp
Reviewed by Sky McCain
The first word that comes into focus when I think about describing this book is ‘thoroughness’. Dr. Ursula King deserves the highest of praise, not only for her wonderful thoroughness but for the superb organisation and clarity she brings to bear on a subject almost impossible to place in a box. A bit like love, ‘spirituality’ means something
different to everyone.
The book has ten chapters ranging from Spirituality as Ideal and Practice through to Spiritualities for Life. The reader will find out how spirituality affects us at various ages and how it relates to education, health, gender, Nature, science, arts and Gaia.
Just the search for a workable definition of spirituality reveals a subject laden with labels and dependencies that obscure clarity. For, as King states, “spirituality can be linked to almost any longing of the human heart.” So she contends that it may be more helpful to “ask what spirituality does rather than what it is”.
After a discussion of meaning, she goes on to explain the diversity found in what it is to be spiritual in different cultures. She looks at spiritual consumerism, personal spirituality, spirituality without religion, secular spiritualities, and the immense interest in the subject
over the last few years, pointing out that “we seem to have lost a sense of the soul, a sense of the spiritual nature and destiny of the human being.” For me, this is the result of the pragmatic misuse of power within institutional religions coupled with a parallel loss of
connection with earthen spirituality. And from what I know of her, I suspect this author might agree.
GreenSpirit Journal readers will most probably be especially interested in what King brings out in the chapter on spirituality and a global world. For instance, she says: “Contemporary ecological consciousness relates to profound spiritual insights, to new religious experiences that can enhance and expand human life and its flourishing. But human beings need to listen to the voices of the earth and develop a full earth literacy to respond to this new situation.”
I see this book as a valuable aid to those who wish more clarity on how a new ecological consciousness and religious pluralism can harmonise, thereby contributing to the mutual well being of not only humans but the whole Earth.