PHILOSOPHERS should meditate. Words need time and a lot of silence to be well digested, to nourish us and to be transformed into a lived moral action. Michael McGhee was raised Roman Catholic and is now a practicing Buddhist. He is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy at the University of Liverpool.
It does not promote a definition of spirituality that believes in a supernatural “other” (there is no incarnation or promise of immortality here), but rather reiterates the importance of conscious humanity and moral commitment. with philosophy and poetry. For the believer, McGhee allows an analysis of how and why faith is lived; for the non-believer, it gives access to the language and grammar of faith, “the possibility of insight”.
A 93-year-old friend of mine is proud of her philosophical training, her passport to agnosticism/atheism, which often allows her to declare that “faith is only a matter of belief”. She accepts the moral teachings of Christianity, rejects its supernatural claims, believes in ghosts, does not want a funeral, and regularly participates in home communion. I will lend him my copy of Spirituality for the Ungodly.
McGhee’s book broadly admits anyone who might identify as a “cultural” or “moral” religious person—the humanist—and explores what that might mean: the transformation of the individual, the formation of a interior, an empathetic spirit and a sympathetic spirit and moral personality that tries to cope with a suffering world.
His discussion finds its roots in Spinoza, Kant, Wittgenstein, Sartre, Nietzsche and Freud, but also in the poetry of Blake, Hopkins, Eliot, Hughes, Rilke, Yeats, Wordsworth and Shakespeare. He quotes Islamic and Judaic writers, as well as Christians and Buddhists. If philosophy can be understood as a spiritual practice – full of imagination, metaphor and “self-transcendence” – then “the life of the philosopher is found in the integrated totality” of religion, poetry and philosophy. .
His explorations emanate from his own Buddhist practice. He asks, “How can we live well, how can we live now? and specifically considers “how Buddhism can offer a non-theistic contribution to a cross-cultural understanding of the philosophy of religion”.
The following two Twitter posts quickly caught my attention while I was thinking about McGhee’s book. The first from Pope Francis to 18.8 million followers: “Together with #StFrancis we praise you, Father, with all your creatures that have come out of your mighty hands. They are yours and are filled with your presence and your tenderness. The second from the Dalai Lama with 19.2 million followers: “If you are motivated by the desire to help on the basis of kindness, compassion and respect, then you can do any type of work, in any field, and function more effectively with less fear or worry, not being afraid of what others think or whether you will eventually achieve your goal.
McGhee’s book helps us say “Amen” to both.
The Reverend Dr Paul Edmondson is Head of Research for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Associate Minister at St Andrew’s Church, Shottery.
Spirituality for the Ungodly: Buddhism, Humanism and Religion
Cambridge University Press €29.99
Bookstore of the times of the church 22,99 €