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Excerpted from Hymns to an Unknown God: Awakening the Spirit in Everyday Life by Sam Keen, Ph.D. Copyright © 1995 by Sam Keen, Ph.D. Excerpted by permission of Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"What does the concept of spirit mean to us today? Do most of us even have a sense of it anymore?"

Sam Keen, 
Hymns to an Unknown God
, Part 1

PRELUDE: The Yearning

"Any journalist worth his or her salt knows the real story today is to define what it means to be spiritual. This is the biggest story--not only of the decade but of the century." 
      – Bill Moyers

Spirit: "the animating or vital principle; that which gives life to the physical organism in contrast to its purely material elements; the breath of life." 
      – Webster’s Dictionary

Spirit. Breath. The animating principle. The prime mover. Breathing out. Breathing in. Expiration. Inspiration. Dying and borning again.

In every cycle of breath, between the emptying and the inflowing, there is a moment of absolute calm, an instant when history comes to an end. Then, the yearning begins, the divine discontent, the lungs praying to be filled, the body longing to be animated by spirit.

To catch the invisible wind, to map the itinerary of spirit, study the outlines of longing. Just as an echo in a cave brings news of unfathomable depths, in our yearning is our nostalgia for the future. In the emptiness between breaths, we hear a whispered promise of fulfillment, we sense the redolence of a rose now only in the bud.

Breathe through us, breath of God, fill us with life anew.


"As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God." --PSALM 42

What does the concept of spirit mean to us today? Do most of us even have a sense of it anymore? And of those of us who still believe in a place for the spirit, a place called soul, a god, how many have a daily experience of it? Is it possible in this chaotic day and age to have a sense of the sacred in everyday life, or do we have to check our spirits and our god at the workplace door?

What might it mean to live in a spiritual manner in these traumatic times? Today, the reality of the spiritual dimension is most obvious by its absence. We yearn for something that will give a sense of meaning and purpose to our daily lives, something more engaging than paying lip service to the idea of God or attending worship on the weekend. We are haunted by a vacuum. Our hearts are shaped by something that hasn't happened to us--yet. Multitudes of modern seekers are full of emptiness, aching to be soulful, longing for a spark of inspiration that will ignite a passion that will lift them beyond the pettiness of getting and spending, that will animate their minds, their bodies, their spirits. We are hungry to recover the sense of the sacred that is currently painfully missing from our love affairs, families, jobs, and politics.

No week passes when some friend or stranger does not speak to me about the yearning.

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