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A Primer for SPIRITUALITY in the 21st Century

During the reign of the 4th century Roman Emperor Constantine, various Peoples of the Empire were converted to the Christian religion. They believed that God is in the heavens, that He made the earth in seven days, that the sun goes around the earth, and that the earth is flat. This cosmology was a foundation of their spirituality.

In the 16th century Copernicus and Galileo discovered that the earth is round, that it rotates daily on its axis and goes around the sun annually in a wide orbit. In the next 300 years scientific research explored the structure of the earth and its place in the cosmos, and in the 19th century we learned that life on earth had evolved during 3 billion years. In the twentieth century, living daily in an industrial society, we are exploring space. Gradually the nature of our basic convictions is evolving.

A people’s spirituality derives, slowly, in association with their daily perceptions, feelings, reflections, occupations and actions. And from time to time we assess who we are in this process.

Book review
My friend Bob Wild has been for a long time a part of a world-wide and endless conversation about something mysterious which we will call spirituality. He is a wise old owl near the end of his life who has collected his latest thoughts and insights in this book and I found them both informative and intriguing reading. As he points out, we regularly need to consider the old sacred stories and myths, old “truths,” in the light of today’s wisdom, the fresh scientific (meaning verifiable) information of our time. It’s just a healthy and sensible thing to do and it can make for lively reading and raised eyebrows, as it does here.

Because, let’s face it, from childhood the great mysteries of life, about God and related stuff, have often been solved for us by stories, not certainties unless we choose to make those stories the final word. And so the world ages and a multitude of students uncover fascinating information, fresh opinions emerge – and here we are invited to consider them, respectfully, against our own experience. That can be quite fun “History is a process, not a locked box with a collection of facts inside,” observes Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall. “The past and the present are always in dialogue – there can hardly be history without revisionism,”

In other words, revision is not a dirty word but an essential activity. All of which is to say that Wild, who remains a steadfast student and follower of the man from Nazareth but certainly not the institutional church, has fresh things to say about how religious history emerged and was set in stone which is now rapidly crumbling. Fed by fresh information, viewed with an open and enquiring mind, that storytelling can blossom anew.

He is never boring to me because he is a concise and vivid writer. Many topics, many insights, no trash words. He offers nuggets from biblical history, takes a fresh look at what we call prayer, offers some rich examples of a different kind, speaks about fresh forms of self-discipline (ugh), writes about “thawing” sacred texts, probes mythology, explains prophecy, considers ego, soul and the spiritual life. Some of his exploration is more interesting to me than other bits, of course. I will forever remember what he has to say about aboriginal wisdom.

A good read if you’re not afraid of a fearless writer who writes thoughtfully about big mysteries and keeps nudging you to think again. ~ Don Vipond is a former newspaper writer and editor now retired in Saanichton.
About the Author
Born in 1927, Robert Wild grew up in Montreal, Québec and graduated BA ’49 from McGill University. He did post-graduate studies in theology in Saskatoon, Vancouver and Toronto, and served in the Anglican Church of Canada for 36 years. He also worked as a supply priest for small rural parishes in Saskatchewan and as a Chaplain at the University of Saskatchewan.

Review & Commentary