We do not seem to be equipped to explore the full depth and range of human experienceby Jonathan Rowson / March 26, 2015 / Leave a comment
The prevailing popular mood is one of unreflective spiritual confusion. Modern news stories are awash with religious references, but the commentary on broader spiritual perspectives, experiences and practices is relatively underdeveloped.
For instance, the Pope reaches beyond the faithful in his calls for action on climate change, but where is the language of fear, guilt, hope, and existential threat that underpins climate concern? Our bishops call for greater political imagination, to connect our inner and outer lives, but beyond Russell Brand’s oblique hopes for revolution, where are the suggested forms of life that go beyond religious doctrine? And we rightly ask in what sense Islamic State is Islamic, but can we meaningfully respond to barbaric acts of violence without a more open discussion about the darker aspects of our own nature?
Outside of religious institutions, which no longer speak on behalf of the majority, we do not seem to be equipped to explore the full depth and range of human experience. We are spiritually confused in the sense that we struggle to think and talk coherently about the things that are most deeply important to us, for instance whom and what we love, what makes us well up with pride or sorrow, and the fact that we’ll die. That such fundamental features of life seem private or niche is precisely the problem. Tapping into the motivations and values expressed through such experience and reflection may be central to any serious attempt to reorient society. The actor Michael Sheen is not alone in considering the perpetual policy tweaks that now pass for politics as “a morass of bland neutrality.”
The RSA, an organisation which generally focuses on more conventional public policy topics such as enterprise, education and city growth, has recognised this challenge in a new report called Spiritualise. The report focuses on ways to revitalise our understanding and appreciation of spirituality to enrich 21st century political debate, but resists calls for spirituality to be viewed as a new hammer in an old toolbox, to hit established nails on the head. Those who are too quick to ask what exactly spirituality is, and how…