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Lunch » Tags » Untagged » Spirituality: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) » User review

Somewhat Informative But Not Very Probing

  • Feb 22, 2013
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Spirituality is one of those things that everyone has some idea of what it is but it's prohibitively hard to define. Leading a spiritually fulfilling life is arguably one of the overarching goals for most people, whether they acknowledge or accept it as such or not. In recent years there has been a trend, particularly in the west, for the term spiritual to designate people who have abandoned most affiliation with organized religion, yet don't consider themselves to be strictly speaking "atheists." On the other hand there is a trend even among the atheists for a more systematic approach to the transcendental questions and aspirations in life that don't fall under the officially recognized secular practices.

This short introduction aims to explain spirituality and introduce the reader to various spiritual practices. It is an interesting overview of many different "spiritualties," from those that derive from organized religions to those that seem much more contemporary and at first divorced from any spiritual concepts.

Even though this book is a nice introductory overview, it leaves a lot to be desired. For one, after reading it I don't understand any better what spirituality as such is than before. It leaves me feeling that spirituality is a very vague notion to begin with, and almost infinitely malleable. A few attempts to systematize variety of spiritual approaches leave some of the most prominent aspects out – ritual observance, prayer, and theological study. Granted, some of these are mentioned in the book, but more as an afterthought and in passing. Furthermore, the author subtly and not-too-subtly characterizes various spiritual practices with value judgment that are obviously tainted by his own intellectual and moral persuasions – those of a post-modern European academic intellectual, with all of the secular pieties that this entails. From this perspective spirituality seems like little more than a way of imbuing the prevailing western liberal ideology with some deeper transcendental meaning.

If you want just a basic overview of some main spiritual approaches that are relevant today, then this book has some value. However, it's neither a very critical nor probing look at the subject of spirituality.

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More Spirituality: A Very Short Int... reviews
review by . February 22, 2013
Spirituality is one of those things that everyone has some idea of what it is but it's prohibitively hard to define. Leading a spiritually fulfilling life is arguably one of the overarching goals for most people, whether they acknowledge or accept it as such or not. In recent years there has been a trend, particularly in the west, for the term spiritual to designate people who have abandoned most affiliation with organized religion, yet don't consider themselves to be strictly speaking "atheists." …
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Bojan Tunguz ()
Ranked #53
I am a benevolent rascal. I love lounging in bed on a Sunday morning. Rainy days make me melancholy, but in a good kind of way. I am an incorrigible chocoholic. I hate Mondays, but I get over it by Wednesday. … more
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Philip Sheldrakeis currently the Joseph Visiting Professor in the Department of Theology at Boston College. Sheldrake co-founded and directed (1984-94) the Institute of Spirituality at Heythrop College, University of London. For the last twenty five years he has been a leading figure in the field of spirituality as an interdisciplinary area of study.
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