The Cultural Evolution of the Sense of the Sacred,
from Shamanism to Religion to Post-religious Spirituality
“The human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.” — Albert Einstein (1954)
In an age of religious fundamentalist violence around the world, it is heartening to read poet and cultural historian William Irwin’s Thompson’s contention that a new form of post-religious spirituality is emerging in our planetary civilization, one that is more appropriate to our new electronic and globally interconnected noetic polities. This little book is a Vade Mecum of the cultural evolutionary news to keep in one’s pocket to read along with the day’s emotionally manipulative political news.
Thompson shows us that, like a dying star in supernova, the explosion of religious violence is a sign of medieval religions’ death and not their rebirth. The brilliant thirteenth-century Renaissance that gave us the Gothic Cathedrals and the Convivencia of Christian, Jews, and Muslims in southern Spain was followed by the Black Death and the Inquisition, but the Italian Renaissance still took off in fifteenth-century Florence, as Giotto was followed by Fra Angelico and the syncretic school of Chartres was followed by Cosimo di Medici’s Florentine Academy. The Big Picture that the poet and cultural historian can provide enables us to participate in the larger processes of cultural transformation at work in our world.
C O N T E N T S:
Preface by Joy Stocke
Foreword: Thinking Otherwise on Religion
1. Child Abuse and the Catholic Church
2. From Shamanism to Religion
3. From Religion to Post-religious Spirituality I
4. From Religion to Post-religious Spirituality II
5. Our Contemporary Cultural Evolution of Spirituality: Modern Integral Tantra Yoga
Conclusion: The End of the Age of Religion and the Emergence of Symbiotic Consciousness