GreenSpirit Book Series, Title No. 8 CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017
Reviewed by Chris Holmes
I read this book twice, with several weeks elapsing between readings. The first was a dip in and out, choosing chapters almost at random though I confess it was the personal stories that most drew me in at first. My second reading was sequential, from the Foreword to the last page and this surprisingly turned out to be a more rewarding experience as it allowed for a fuller appreciation of the diversity of articles in the book and individual transformations people had made through engaging with green spirituality. It also highlighted their essential unity and deep grounding in love of the Earth.
The book consists of a foreword, a preface, an introduction, a poem and thirteen following chapters covering 118 pages, which are rounded off by some information about GreenSpirit and other GreenSpirit publications. There are three main parts; the first and shortest of which looks at different types of darkness. As a fellow gardener I was very taken by Trevor Sharman’s early discussion in the book of the vital importance of darkness, both in the ‘underground’ soil and within the season of winter, which made for a wonderful way in to the subsequent chapters. I finished Part One, entitled ‘About Darkness’, wishing it could have been slightly longer – my own disposition inclining as it does to the ‘via negativa’.
Part Two, ‘Journeys through Darkness’, contains seven individual stories, which to me felt like the beating heart of the book. I found each contribution deeply compelling and the writers’ personal stories about times of crises courageous. Each speaks passionately in their recounting of times of darkness, despair and, in diverse ways, the healing nature of a green spirituality. However, this is not the sort of quick-fix healing where suddenly everything is okay; there is no sense here of an overly simplistic formula for pain relief or spiritual bypassing. What we are told about are important times of change in perception, in understanding, and shifts in experience to consolation rather than desolation. Importantly, for each contributor the journey continues. And the journey can still be rough, of course, but with a difference, as each contributor tells how various fields of green spirituality had given their lives more profound meaning and purpose.
The title of the third and final part is ‘Ways ahead in Darkness’. June Raymond writes in one of the chapters in this section that ‘collectively we are facing a dark night of the soul’. Overall, the four chapters in this part broaden the vision of the book and reflect upon the state of the planet and ‘the Great Work’, as Thomas Berry called it, which we need to embrace.
Whenever I read a book I enjoy such as this one, I always look for a few words that will stay with me and I was not disappointed. The last sentence of Caroline Rosie Dent’s contribution contains the following mantra: ‘get curious about death before death gets curious about you’! Apposite for this reviewer as it turns out, as I prepare for the impending death of a close family member and find comfort in the sound spiritual insights and practices shared in this book.
In summary, ‘Dark Nights of the Green Soul’ is a compact, intelligent and highly accessible addition to the GreenSpirit Book Series. Could there be a ‘Dark Nights of the Green Soul Book Two’ in the pipeline, I wonder. I would be happy to read it – bring it on!