Forewords by Mona Eltahawy and Andrew Harvey
Afterword by Lama Suya Das
North Atlantic Books, 2013, 250pp
ISBN 978-1-58394-685-5

 

Reviewed by Stephen Wollaston (aka Santoshan)

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Occupy Spirituality is a superb dialogue between two important contemporary progressive Christian thinkers and activists. Though the subtitle partly suggests the book is focussed on the younger generation, there is nothing within the pages that is not relevant to us all, to the times in which we live and to the materialistic greed, bigotry and complacency that is bringing about the greatest spiritual crisis human and more-than-human life have ever faced. If this gives the impression this might be a negative read, then it would be a wrong one. The book is truly inspirational. I found myself saying ‘Yes’ as yet another chord was struck on almost every page. Both Bucko and Matthew present what they see as the living core of an active spirituality and share numerous essential insights, practices and experiences they themselves have found beneficial in their own lives and journeys.

What is essentially presented is a spirituality that is prepared to get its hands dirty, to do something and work towards positive changes. In one passage Matthew points out how Christian worship has on the whole become boring in the West and become about sitting quietly while someone reads and preaches from the front. Whereas in fact the tradition’s core is meant to be about transformation. How the person entering a church is supposed to be different to the person who leaves – a change that is meant to be embodied, lived and joyfully celebrated. Matthew also touches upon teachings and teachers he has particularly become known for bringing to our attention over the last few decades, such as deep ecumenisms, standing up to the challenges and injustices of our times, acknowledging sacredness everywhere, the four interrelated strands of the creation mystical journey, the wisdom of Thomas Berry, Meister Eckhart and Hildegard of Bingen, and what prophethood and mysticism ultimately embrace.

Bucko shares his years of being deeply committed to and engaged in meaningful and creative work with young homeless and abused kids on the streets of New York, finding God and God’s work lying in the gutter and how teachings by those who went beyond the boundaries of their faith, such as Bede Griffiths and Matthew Fox himself, have inspired him. One simple encounter Bucko recounts about a young homeless girl in India who took hold of his hand and walked silently with him for a short while – which subsequently changed his life forever – is particularly moving.

If you are someone like me, who seems to have found nothing but trouble on his/her journey because of asking too many awkward questions and expecting spirituality and religious traditions to have wider aims than simply getting a ceremony, mantra or meditation practice just right, and who believes it is essential to address contemporary injustices, including human-made acts of violence against Nature, then I suggest you read this key work on universal responsibility and reflect upon the vast amounts of compassionate and practical wisdom it presents.