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Book Title: Disciplines of the Spirit|
The author of the book: Howard Thurman
ISBN 13: 9780913408353
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 728 KB
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Reader ratings: 3.3
Edition: Friends United Press
Date of issue: March 30th 1963
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Howard Thurman was a philosopher, theologian, and educator whose writings influenced many civil rights leaders, notably Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I bought this first edition in 1963, little knowing that its writer was a wise man and a very unusual Baptist - the kind who studied philosophy under a Quaker mystic and went on to found a multi-cultural church. It's phrased with deceptive simplicity and eloquence but its insights reward careful study. I didn't have the patience for it when I was younger...
This book came out of his teaching at Boston University as Professor of Spiritual Disciplines. The first semester of his course studied religious experience with an emphasis on Christianity. The second was "a study of suffering, tragedy, and love as the disciplines of the spirit through which an individual may be ushered into the Presence of God."
The chapter headings are: Commitment; Growing in Wisdom and Stature; Suffering; Prayer; Reconciliation. The final chapter, Reconciliation, deals with violence and nonviolence in a most concrete and realistic way, building on the insights of the earlier chapters.
The chapter on suffering is the heart of the book. Thurman bypasses metaphysical examinations of the problem of evil and cuts right to what all sufferers want to know: "How may my suffering be managed or overcome?...Must I finally be overcome and destroyed by it?" His answer is not in books "or even in the ritual or ceremonies of religion." Rather he believes it "is to be found in the testimony of the human spirit."
"The man who suffers must say yea or nay, in his utterance feeling himself sustained, supported, and confirmed, or undermined, deserted and denied. If the answer to his suffering is to face it and challenge it to do its worst because he knows that when it has exhausted itself it has only touched the outer walls of his dwelling place, this can only come to pass because he has found something big enough to contain all violences and violations -- he has found that his life is rooted in a God who cares for him and cultivates his spirit...He knows that even in his own strength he never quite explores the limits of his endurance, and beyond all this there is the possibility of a reinforcement of his life that transcends all the vicissitudes of his fortune...To seek to know how he may enter into such a grand fulfillment is the essence of all wisdom and the meaning of all human striving. Of course, he may be mistaken. But to be mistaken in such a grand and illumined undertaking is to go down to his grave with a shout." pp. 84-85
The chapter on prayer sees the hunger for God as "an expression of the givenness of God...the trysting place where the God and the soul of man meet."
The chapter on reconciliation deal with forgiveness, yes, but not superficially. Nonviolence is founded on reconciliation - "the inner reconciliation that an individual experiences when he feels that his life is bottomed by another's caring." What it feels like to confront violence with nonviolence - we see through the eyes of those who have done this and lived to tell the tale.
"The spirit of retaliation must be relaxed and overcome" and the only way this can happen is for the reconciliation to occur within one's own spirit. "Violence feeds on fear...the fear it engenders in those against whom it is directed" and especially physical fear. "If the highest premium is placed upon life, the fear of its loss or injury enables violence to maintain itself in active control...If there is no fear at this point, then the power of violence is critically undermined."
And so the man who has learned to suffer well can perhaps rise above this fear and stand against violence.
A discipline worth developing...
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Read information about the authorHoward Thurman (born 1899 in Daytona Beach, Florida - April 10, 1981 in Daytona Beach, Florida) was an author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader.
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