The Unselfish Spirit by Mick Collins responds to the idea, first put forward by the psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, that behind the global crisis we now face, can be discerned a deep spiritual crisis. The book suggests that it may only be by re-engaging with spirituality and a lived sense of the sacred in our everyday lives that humanity can hope to create a sufficient awareness of common purpose, and the requisite agency, to radically shift the trajectory of our industrial-growth society and develop instead practices of living that allow us to live sustainably on this planet. As Tim O’Riordan suggests in the preface to the book, this may turn out in the end to be the answer to the riddle of how we learn to live within planetary boundaries, when, despite our vast technological capacities and know-how, the evidence in the early years of the 21st century, is that we are heading towards the exact opposite.
The book sets out a humanistic, occupational and transpersonal perspective on human potential and the nature and purpose of spiritual and mystical experiences. Drawing upon the ideas of Jung and other visionary thinkers, the book describes how a re-engagement with spirituality, grounded in our daily lives and actions, can lead to personal transformation, including the discovery of renewed meaning and purpose in an individual’s life by identifying more deeply with the well-being of life as a whole. The book brings together an understanding of spiritual emergencies and personal transformation with an agenda for global transformation and renewal. It articulates and illustrates how spiritual emergencies, can, if facilitated with the right awareness and supporting structures, play a positive role in a collective response to the global crisis.
At the heart of the book is the idea that “at the most subtle level we are deeply enmeshed and embedded within the universe as a whole, yet we behave in the world today as if we were separate...” and that the insight from both ancient wisdom (shamanic) traditions and contemporary con-sciousness studies is that “we are capable of having deep experiences in consciousness that reveal exper-ientially our interconnection with all life”. The book combines a rigorous intellectual analysis and review with numerous examples of individuals’ experiences of personal transformation and a rich sharing of the author’s own personal experience of a spiritual emergency and personal transformation over several decades, thereby illustrating the patterns of transformation described in the book.
This book is an inspirational, moving but also highly practical manual for integrating self-transformation with the task of deeper communion and healing with our long-suffering planet. It will be used as a field guide by anyone who is genuinely interested in engaging with this great challenge of our time. It provides a clear and grounded summary of how addressing the damaging material impacts of our industrial-growth society is ultimately a collective voyage of discovery that calls upon each one of us to re-awaken to our common heritage as the story of the human race.
Alex Haxeltine is a Senior Research Fellow at the Tyndall Centre, University of East Anglia
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