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Spiritualise: Revitalising spirituality to address 21st century challenges deals with a weighty subject and the overall process of producing the report involved about 300 people over two years, so it’s not surprising the final report is relatively long – about 40,000 words over 92 pages; it’s half a book really. (Now there’s a thought…)

You can of course skim and dip, but if you want the full picture and the whole thing seems daunting, there is a 4000 word summary in the form of a speech transcript, and you can also watch the video recording of the actual speech (4.30-23.20).

If even that is too much, I wrote a 1000 word summary.

And if that’s still asking too much, I can only really offer bait in the hope of luring you in. So here are some of my favourite quotations from the report. I’ve given the page numbers so you can pursue them in context:

On page five:

1. “We all see our lives, and/or the space wherein we live our lives, as having a certain moral/spiritual shape. Somewhere, in some activity, or condition, lies a fullness, a richness; that is, in that place (activity or condition), life is fuller, richer, deeper, more worthwhile, more admirable, more what it should be. This is perhaps a place of power: we often experience this as deeply moving or inspiring.”

- Taylor, C. (2007) A Secular Age, Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press p.5.

On page eight:

2. “I want to overhear passionate arguments about what we are and what we are doing and what we ought to do…I miss civilisation, and I want it back.”

- Marilynne Robinson (Quoted in London Review of Books, 23 October 2014 p20) See:

On page nine:

3. “I don’t believe in God, but I miss him.”

- Barnes, J. (2008) Nothing To Be Frightened Of. London: Jonathan Cape.

On page fifteen:

4. “Many atheists now consider ‘spiritual’ thoroughly poisoned by its association with medieval superstition (but) we must reclaim good words and put them to good use – and this is what I intend to do with ‘spiritual.’…There seems to be no other term (apart from the even more problematic ‘mystical’ or the more restrictive ‘contemplative’) with which to discuss the deliberate efforts some people make to overcome their feeling of separateness.”

Harris, S (2012) In Defence of ‘Spiritual’. Online:

On page thirty:

5. “I’m not only agnostic about the answer, I’m agnostic about the question.”

Jonathan Safran Foer responding to: ‘Do you believe in God?’, Radio4, Online:

On page thirty-nine:

6. “The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor.”

- Haidt, J. (2012) The Righteous Mind. London: Penguin Books. p.281.

On page forty-five:

7. “I don’t think any one of us can begin to discover again what religion might mean unless we are prepared to expose ourselves to new ways of being in our bodies.”

- Williams, R. (2014) The Physicality of Prayer. New Statesman, 8 July, [Online] Available at:

On page sixty eight:

8. “Why are you unhappy? Because 99.9 percent of everything you think, and of everything you do, is for yourself – and there isn’t one.”

- Wei Wu Wei. (1963) Ask The Awakened. Routledge-Kegan Paul Ltd.

On page eighty-nine:

9. “In theory, freedom may be held in high regard; in practice it is experienced as a dizzying loss of meaning and direction.”

Batchelor, S. (1997) Buddhism without Beliefs. Riverhead Books. p110.

On page ninety-two:

10. ‘We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking’.

Rohr, R. (1999). Everything belongs. Crossroad Publishing Company.

On page sixteen:

11. (Religion should not be seen as inherently divisive, but could also be seen and experienced as) “a secure base from which to explore, not a fence beyond which lies infidels.” – Elizabeth Oldfield (at first RSA workshop)

On page fourteen:

12. “The word spiritual has a history, and that history has a politics.”

- Matthew Engelke at first workshop.

On page fifty-one:

13. “In truth, the crossing from nature to culture and vice versa has always stood wide open. It leads across an easily accessible bridge: the practising life.”

-Sloterdijk, P. (2013) You Must Change your Life. Cambridge: Polity Press. P.11

On page fifty-six:

14. “‘God is Love’ became ‘love is God’.”
- May, S. (2011) Love: A History. London: Yale University Press.

On page fifty-nine:

15. “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anaemic…It is precisely this collision of immoral power with powerless morality which constitutes the major crisis of our time.”

- Martin Luther King, Sourced from Kahane, A. (2010). Power and love: A theory and practice of social
change. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

On page sixty-five:

16.  “…There’s no cheating death here; the meditator learns to stare down the vertiginous fact of her own mortality, unflinchingly and intentionally. And it’s in so doing that religious principles move from propositional beliefs into experiential reality…” – Joanna Cook (speaking at the RSA)

On page sixty-one:

17. “I face up to death but then I flip back into denial. Surely that’s what it’s like? I lie in bed in the small hours of the morning, absolutely terrified by the apprehension of my own dissolution…And then I go to sleep and wake up in the morning and make toast.”
- Will Self (speaking at the RSA)

On page sixty-eight:

18.“We are all engaged in a futile struggle to maintain ourselves in our own image.”

- Epstein, M. (2004) Thoughts without a thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist perspective. Basic Books. p.44.

On page seventy-five:

19. “We can say that there is in every organism, at whatever level, an underlying flow of movement toward constructive fulfilment of its inherent possibilities”.

- Rogers, C. (1995). A way of being. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

On Page ninety one

20. “We have had two centuries of a civilisation of unparalleled material progress, abundance and development based on extrinsic values (self-interest, materialism, economic growth, keeping up, social mobility); intrinsic ‘beyond-self’ and religious values have periodically been reasserted but they have lost their institutional hold and centrality to the stories that make sense of our lives. The extrinsic values celebrated by industrial society are now under real pressure in the West as scarcities begin to return and confidence in the future wanes, for good reasons of ecological disruption, social fragmentation and economic dysfunction and inequality.”

-Ian Christie (email communication)



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