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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.

"Just as there is no universal diet that is healthy for all persons, just as Jack Sprat could eat no fat and his wife could eat no lean, no single spiritual diet will be nourishing for everyone."

Sam Keen, Hymns to an Unknown God, Part 5

The ecological movement has gone beyond the notion of a sustainable economy and limits of growth to embrace a spiritual commitment to reverence for life. Within the Roman Catholic Church, creation spirituality is capturing the imagination of many. Thomas Berry suggests that we put the Bible on the shelf for twenty years and learn to read the natural world as scripture. There is a growing awareness that the ecological perspective is, in essence, a theological revolution based on a sense of the sacredness of all life.

Fortune 500 executives are telling us that work should provide opportunities for personal and spiritual growth as well as financial rewards.

Systems theory has emerged as the dominant trend in most disciplines, from psychology to computer science, replacing the old method of piecemeal analysis, in which we broke everything down into its component parts. The tendency in recent thought is to stress synthesis, networks, interaction, process. The old notion that the whole is the sum of the parts has been replaced by the idea that the parts can only be understood as functions of the dynamics of the whole. The nineteenth-century vision of lonely billiard-ball atoms accidentally colliding with each other to form the varieties of life has been replaced by a vision of a universe made up of an intricate web of relationships, a net of jewels.

The old warfare between science and religion has ended, and a new romance has begun. A marriage is in the making between physics and mysticism. Quantum physics has demonstrated the limit of the old time-bound, space-bound Newtonian materialistic universe of isolated atoms. Paul Davies, professor of mathematical physics at the University of Adelaide, concludes: "Through conscious beings the universe has generated self-awareness. This can be no trivial detail, no minor by-product of mindless, purposeless forces. We are truly meant to be here."

Perhaps your success or failure in love or work has left you with an urgent need to find some greater meaning and purpose in your life. Perhaps a near encounter with disease or death has eaten away at your old certainties and filled you with doubts. Perhaps your despair at the madness of modernity has created a hunger for hope, a need for a new vision of the sacred.

The crisis and quest I describe and map in Hymns to an Unknown God is both cultural and personal, both modern and perennial. The search to determine whether there is any reality that answers to the names of spirit, soul, or God can only be a passionate existential journey to discover the deepest meaning of being a person. In this sense, every woman and man in every age faces a crisis, a time of reckoning when she or he is challenged to explore and define the self, to find a vision and a set of values that give meaning to daily life. To help you in your self-examination, Chapters 1 through 6 provide detailed ways and questions for dissecting your life and the sources of your happiness and unhappiness, and a blueprint for sacralizing your life. The following four chapters show you ways in which you can integrate your new views of self and spirit in your sexual and love relationships, in your work, in your ways of being in the environment, and in creating a new kind of compassionate community. The final chapter suggests more than fifteen rituals for consecrating everyday life.

Just as there is no universal diet that is healthy for all persons, just as Jack Sprat could eat no fat and his wife could eat no lean, no single spiritual diet will be nourishing for everyone. The ways we metabolize meaning are as profoundly different as the ways we metabolize food. Some thrive on a diet of elaborate symbols and will be nourished by a high church liturgy, an intricate Tibetan tanka, or a Jungian mandala. Others are allergic to excessive theological ritual and will do much better with Quaker silence or Zen meditation.

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