Mark Vernon recently highlighted an interesting report written by Dr Jonathan Rowson, Director of the secular organisation RSA’s (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce) Social Brain Centre, “this report examines how many of society’s problems risk going unaddressed as we struggle to ‘do depth’ in public – it is historically sidestepped by governments and deferred to religions. But at a time of political alienation and democratic stress, it is no surprise that politicians and the public are now seeking to reconnect with their forgotten spiritual roots.
Spiritualise: revitalising spirituality to address 21st century challenges is the culmination of a two-year project funded by the John Templeton Foundation and the Touchstone Trust. The project received contributions from over three hundred experts including atheists, agnostics, and people of various faiths.
Many people think of themselves as having a spiritual aspect to their lives, but without really knowing what that means. This report puts forth that whilst spiritual identification is an important part of life for millions of people, it currently remains ignored because it struggles to find coherent expression and, therefore, lacks credibility in the public domain.
This report recommends that we all rediscover and develop mature forms of spirituality, grounded both in what we can never really know about our place in the universe, and what we can know – and experience – about ourselves. The spiritual injunction is principally an experiential one, namely to know oneself as fully as possible. For many, that means beginning to see beyond the ego and recognise being part of a totality, or at least something bigger than oneself.
Spirituality can be explored in terms of four main aspects of human existence that are often distorted or misrepresented:
- Love – the promise of belonging
- Death – the awareness of being
- Self – the path of becoming and transcendence
- Soul – the sense of beyondness
The report concludes with twelve points to be read as calls to action, but not of the conventional injunctive ‘do this!’ variety. In each case, the suggestion is that most issues in the public realm have spiritual roots that we need to acknowledge, engage with, and ‘bring to the table’ when our personal and professional roles oblige us to think more instrumentally.”
You’ll find the PDF version of the report here (90+ pages). Personally I think the report highlights some real challenges to, and opportunities for the Church and the mission of God in the 21st century. The Spirituality conversation is to the 21st century West what St. Paul’s Athenian address. It provides a language and a way into both talking about Christianity and into sharing our rich resources in meaningful ways; ways that deepen and enrich what it means to be truly and fully human after the example of the Son of Man.
You can also read Mark Vernon’s thoughts in respect of the report here.