It’s just about one month before the publication of my new book A Religion of One’s Own. Now the marketing and publicity begin, important aspects of a writer’s life, where a book finds real completion by being seen, held, read and, the writer hopes, passed on to a friend or relative. As I gear up for this public process, with some concern for my inborn introversion, I realize that thoughts I tried to express in the book are finally crystallizing. The themes of the book, in fact the very premise of it, are now clearer to me, and, as always happens with a new book, I wish that I could start writing it now.
Here are a few points that at last are gelling:
1. We don’t realize, as a society, how secular we are becoming, and how deeply that movement harms our collective soul.
2. We don’t need more of the vague “spirituality” that has been a dominant theme for a while now. We need a new kind of religion, rising out of personal discovery, shared wherever we can share it.
3. The religious traditions are now resources for all of us. Members and followers of a church or formal religion no longer own its wisdom and beauty. We are all free to borrow seriously and extensively.
4. Everything is potentially sacred. It no longer makes sense to divide the world into the secular and the sacred.
5. Communities of believers have to evolve into a deeper kind of community, one that embraces all people, animals, the natural world and manufactured things. Not a literal group of like-minded neighbors, but the feeling of community that includes everyone and everything on earth and beyond.
6. It makes no sense to generate a secularist society to ensure people’s freedom of religion and non-religion. Better to appreciate and welcome all forms of deep spiritual thought and sensibility.
7. We need a monastic spirit in our contemporary world: a lifestyle that is soaked in a vision of the kind discovered by monks, a spiritual intelligence fostered by good reading and good ideas, places and times for contemplation, and a strong sense of common ownership in public life.
8. We need a religious spirit that leaves behind former masochistic anti-pleasure, anti-sexual, and anti-erotic anxieties.
9. We all need to be less busy at things that don’t matter and at things that are, at root, compulsions, and instead become ordinary, natural mystics, having the capacity to lose ourselves in the beauty of art and nature.
10. Our religiousness is incomplete until we can transform this world into a place where each person without exception can effect a creative life, until we deal with violence and self-serving corruption by restoring personal power and the possibility of fulfillment to everyone. This is the ethical piece in a religion of one’s own.