A Guide For The Perplexed
The reason for my sea change concerning religion and spirituality is a little book I recently read called A Guide for the Perplexed, by E. F. Schumacher. It was recommended to me by a reader who had some interesting things to say about this topic (thank you!). It is a small book, barely 140 pages, yet rich with ideas about man’s search for meaning in the modern world. It was written in the 1970s, but I think it is just as relevant today than it was then, if not more so. As soon as I finished it, I turned back to page 1 and read it again. I am on a third reading as of this writing.
This little book covers a huge spectrum of philosophical thought and is geared, as best as I can describe, toward providing a “more accurate map” to guide us through life than is readily available in modern culture. This more accurate map has to do with re-integrating spirituality in a meaningful way into our lives because, as Schumacher believes, science cannot answer man’s existential questions. He believes that only delving into our deepest inner selves can do so, and I think he makes a solid case for his argument, even though he talks about “spirituality” and “religion” only in an indirect way; I believe this is deliberate so that the reader is free to make up his own mind about these things–although the reader is left with the impression that forming an opinion is imperative.
I find it difficult to describe the ideas in the book. After two and a half readings, several months of pondering, and a fair amount of Internet research, I still don’t fully understand where the author is coming from. It’s as if he believes in God, and in the sanctity of religion, but in a very sophisticated way that I can’t fully grasp. One of the reviewers on the back cover called Schumacher a “Christian humanist.” I looked this term up and found it defined in Wikipedia as, essentially, belief in the teachings of Christ without belief in God. I don’t think this quite fits Schumacher because he definitely believes there is something greater than man, though he is clear that mainstream religion leaves much to be desired as a spiritual path. Yet I’m not certain. You will have to read the book and decide for yourself.
But as odd as it may sound, it doesn’t really matter whether I fully understand his position. The book is full of sound ideas about man’s search for meaning in the modern world. So full, in fact, that rather than try to summarize the book in one post, I am going to write a series of posts about the ideas I encountered. Yes–it is that good and that rich and has that many worthy things to say.
If you are interested in spirituality, searching for more meaning in your life, or simply want to better understand the problems we face today, then this book will be an interesting read. It is not available in eBook form, but at around ten dollars, it is a worthy addition to just about any library. I look forward to hearing any and all comments about it.