Soul Celebrations and Spiritual Snacks (Part 1)
The following remarks are Part #1 of a multi-part review of Alexandra York’s newest nonfiction work: Soul Celebrations & Spiritual Snacks (SC &SS). Perhaps you are wondering: What does this topic have to do with the mission of Restore Our American Republic (ROAR). In a word: everything.
ROAR’s stated mission is:
“to improve human life in the U.S. and beyond by restoring the Republic in America and its distinctive institution of individual rights.”
So, what is the connection between restoring the republic and secular spirituality, the subject of York’s book?:
The health of the republic is dependent upon the health of individuals, and without individuals in optimum health, the effort needed to restore the republic will likely fall short. York’s newest nonfiction work with its many concrete examples—in addition to its in-depth exploration of secular spirituality—will be a giant step forward toward creating a healthy populace in the U.S.
The evidence of unhealthiness in America is all around us: widespread disappearance of civility and manners, poor written and verbal communication skills, declining literacy and interest in the arts and humanities, vast numbers of people lacking basic reasoning skills, and more. Addressing these ills will take a very large effort over many years by countless individuals. Those individuals will need spiritual sustenance while making that effort, and this work of York’s will be an excellent source to turn to for that sustenance. Her remarks in the early pages of SC &SS indicates she understands this:
“In the context of the current cultural and global strife, these spiritual snacks become extra significant because they provide tiny soul-satisfying surges of joy, of peace, of wonder, of “aliveness” at any time or place.”
I thought to myself as I read that passage that it had been written specifically for me, because if there’s anyone who needs those things it is . . . me. The global strife she refers to is one that I have been involved in for over 30 years. I first entered it in the free-market environmental trenches of long ago, and in recent years have been addressing a wide variety of cultural issues via the pages of ROAR. Thirty years is a long time, and a soul can become more than a little weary when at times it seems endless and/or hopeless. But now with the façade of civility of leftists in government, the media, Hollywood, and other cultural institutions being stripped away by the likes of Project Veritas and Judicial Watch, millions of Americans are waking up and realizing the republic is in peril. Thanks to this new awareness, a new day has dawned presenting us with a possible future in the U.S—and beyond—of a restored republic and a cultural renaissance.
For those like myself who have been fighting and striving for this day, and for others coming on board now and in the future, this work of York’s will provide the spiritual sustenance to see it through. And for that, and the gems of spirituality that are offered to us in her latest work, I am now and will always be forever in her debt.
Please join me now as we delve into a work of great richness and beauty and one which will almost certainly be one of the most soul-enriching experiences of our lifetimes. – Mike Gemmell, Founder and President, Restore Our American Republic, LLC.
(NOTE: For an explanation of the nature of the “cultural and global strife” mentioned above that is tearing at the fabric of America and a way forward out of the existing morass please see: “The Year Ahead for the American Republic.”
Soul Celebrations & Spiritual Snacks: Part I
Soul Celebrations & Spiritual Snacks begins with the following dedication to:
“men and women committed to reason who sense there may be something missing and
men and women of faith who sense there may be something more.”
What might be missing I asked myself? York’s answer is:
“A sense of completion or oneness with aspects of the external world via experiences we call ‘spiritual.’”
This begs the question of what is spirituality? York’s answer is
“the inherent human desire to connect with some “other” that offers affirmation of one’s personal worth in the context of the vast impersonal universe into which we are born and live out our own individual time on earth.
This then is the theme of SC & SS—the nature and meaning of our need to connect with aspects of the world in order to experience a sense of completion. What is strikingly distinctive about her approach to the subject matter is her actively conscious methodology that is based on identifiable values.
While other writers have approached the subject by tapping into the subconscious via trance-like meditative states, York instead advocates maximum lucidity and self awareness. I, for one, find this new approach most refreshing.
Her discussion on the importance of values is one that deserves careful attention. How we choose and validate our own fundamental values will, for better or worse, determine the course of our individual lives. That discussion segues into a fascinating memoir of her early life and study of various philosophical / religious systems, some of which I have barely heard of (e.g., Zoroastrianism). As she recounts her early history she finally encounters her mentor, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle.
And what a mentor she picked! A Renaissance Man long before there was a Renaissance, Aristotle possessed one of the greatest minds in human history.
Later in the preface she discusses the respective influences throughout the ages of Aristotle and his mentor, Plato. Their philosophical systems were as different as night and day. Aristotle was famous for his insistence that ideas be rooted in the evidence of the senses. Plato on the other hand was a mystic who believed that our physical world was but a pale reflection of another world of “Forms.” We can see the contrasting approaches illustrated in Raphael’s painting School of Athens pictured below. In the painting, Aristotle and Plato are at the center of the picture with Plato pointing upward to his “forms” and Aristotle motioning downward to the earth and sensory perception.
But why is it of any importance to individuals in the 21st century what two men in ancient times philosophized about? I will answer that question with the following real-life example.
Fifty-eight years ago a marine biologist named Rachel Carson published one of the most influential books in human history, Silent Spring. That book launched the modern environmental movement by demonizing one of the most beneficial chemicals ever created: DDT. She used emotionally-gripping prose to paper over her bargain-basement science and thereby became the catalyst to the banning of this miraculous chemical. In so doing, an average of 2 million people per year have died of malaria around the world every year since the EPA banned its use in 1971. For those who like catastrophe comparisons, that is more than twice the number of people who died in World War II. And that was only the opening salvo of one of the most destructive ideologies i.e., environmentalism ever foisted upon the human race.
Carson accepted the evolving environmental ethic in the early to mid-20th century that mankind should live in harmony with nature and transforming the environment to serve humanity was somehow morally wrong. That sentiment was voiced by the naturalist John Muir among many others:
“How narrow we selfish, conceited creatures are in our sympathies! How blind to the rights of all the rest of creation!”
The acceptance by Carson of Muir’s anti-human viewpoint warped the so-called “science” underlying the banning of DDT. At the base of this anti-human perspective is Plato’s otherworldly “forms” philosophy at work. In the world according to Plato, the abstract and the immaterial “form” were of far greater value than the imperfect material world. Muir, Carson, and others uncomfortable with the increasing industrialization occurring in the 19th and 20th century harkened back to a vision of a Garden of Eden without human influence, their particular interpretation of Plato’s forms.
(Note: For facts and perspective on the tragedy of DDT, I recommend the following essays published in Rational Readings on Environmental Concerns, 1992, Ed. Jay H. Lehr: “DDT Effects on Bird Abundance and Reproduction,” by J. Gordon Edwards and “The Tragedy of DDT,” by Thomas H. Jukes. Another more recent essay that is well researched and documented is: “The Story of DDT,” by Steffen Henne.)
Fantasy creations based on Plato’s “forms” that lack a solid basis in our reality have been used to unleash enormously destructive philosophical/religious beasts in our world precisely because their key doctrines contained aspects with no objective reference in reality. And when proponents of these systems have encountered objections and resistance to their proposals, there has been no rational way for them to resolve that resistance. This has left them with their only alternatives being deception and violence. And that is exactly what has occurred repeatedly in both secular and religious philosophies that have been heavily influenced by Plato. In addition to the catastrophic loss of life from environmental policies, the Catholic Church has oceans of blood on its hands during the Inquisition and beyond with its torturing of heretics; Islam has its own bloody sixteen hundred year history, and on and on.
This is why the 2000-year-old battle between Plato and Aristotle matters. Spirituality is a fundamental need of human beings, but it needs to be firmly rooted in the world in which we live, the material world that Aristotle expounded on so many years ago. Thankfully, we have a guide in Alexandra York who fully embraces the Aristotlean perspective with her actively conscious methodology who will show us the way as we travel this path and in the process provide us with a great deal of soul food for our consumption.
Summary: Soul Celebrations and Spiritual Snacks: Part I
In this introduction to Soul Celebrations and Spiritual Snacks, I’ve reviewed Alexandra York’s definitions of spirituality and our need for connection with some aspect of the external world to experience a feeling of completion. Part #2 of my review of SC & SS will address her chapters on secular spirituality, how to incorporate secular spirituality into one’s own values, and how spending time in nature can be a spiritual experience.
“I am a Radical Romantic intent on championing and merging beauty and reason. I write both fiction and nonfiction to enrich, enlighten, and inspire. I am determined to confront the cynical concepts of the sensationalist, nihilistic, popular anti-culture in which we now live and encourage a path of self-created distinctiveness, integrity, and pursuit of excellence. My novels fall under the broad category of Romantic-Suspense but are solidly based in serious ideas with no escapism, fantasy, or wishful dreaming to waste the brain. My nonfiction focuses on the arts and the culture at large, mining history to bring golden nuggets of universal truths to fresh, modern light in order to help meet and greet today’s contemporary challenges.” Internationally published author in fiction and nonfiction, founding president of American Renaissance for the Twenty-first Century (ART)—www.ART-21.org—and regular art and culture columnist for NewsMax.com.