Reclaiming Spirituality

Book Review

Diarmuid Ó Murchú is a fascinating individual. We had the opportunity of hearing him speak at a weekend seminar at the Providence Centre in Edmonton. You love the Irish accent immediately. He is a man of intense faith who has transcended the boundaries of the Roman Catholic spirituality in which he grew up.

He is perhaps best known for his book Quantum Theology. His latest book is Religion in Exile: A Spiritual Homecoming. In this review, we’ll concentrate on his second publication, Reclaiming Spirituality.

You get a hint of where he is coming from in the opening line: “Our spiritual story as a human species is at least 70,000 years old; by comparison, the formal religions have existed for a mere 4,500 years.” He makes a great deal of his observation that formal religion emerged from spirituality, and not the other way around. That means for organized religion to be truly effective, it has to recover its spiritual roots.

Ó Murchú works as a counselor and social psychologist in London, England. As such he has first hand knowledge of the hunger of people for something beyond their day to day life, the “millions across our world who hunger for deeper meaning.” The signs of a spiritual awakening are all around us, he says. People’s love of nature takes them to God. The human capacity to question is alive and well. Moreover, we are re-discovering the power of story to convey meaning and carry us outside our current boundaries.

At the same time we are becoming more humble. “A growing consciousness is surfacing in today’s world that no one field of wisdom or knowledge—not even the religious one—can point us in life’s true direction.”

Ó Murchú is critical of organized religion that maintains boundaries within which people must practice their spirituality. He prefers what he calls “the horizon model,” an open system in which people seek the spiritual avenues to God which best suit them, and look to religion to sustain them and help them develop that spirituality.

For Ó Murchú we live in a Spirit-filled universe. Both the scientist exploring the quarks and gluons that form matter, and the artist capturing the beauty of a single rose experience the wonder of the universe crying out to them. Ó Murchú sees no conflict between the science of our time and religion, only a single search for insights accompanied by a attitude of awe and wonder.

Ó Murchú relates strongly to the insights of feminist theology. It was the feminine nature of God that dominated much of what we think of a pre-history, from 40,000 BCE to c. 10,000 BCE. The male God, hierarchy and male dominance are recent inventions.

The final words in the book: “We need new ways of befriending, supporting and enlightening each other in this new exploration and, in due course, we’ll need new rituals to acknowledge, negotiate and celebrate the spiritual revolution that is waiting to erupt onto the world state. Its irruption will be a timely event—not without its chaos and confusion—and blessed are those who are open to receive it.”

Review by Clair Woodbury

Diarmuid Ó Murchú, Reclaiming Spirituality. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1999. $24.95 in Canada.

Up to Top

Congregational Life Home Page