Spiritualise: cultivating spiritual sensibility to address 21st Century challenges
Originally his closing project as a research director with the RSA (Royal Society of Arts, Sciences And Manufacture), Spiritualise was Rowson's innovative attempt to create a space between social science and political philosophy, and actual spiritual practice and tradition, which respected the validity and reality of both realms.
As Jonathan writes from the current edition:
My interest in spiritual questions arose from a kind of astonishment. How can we take debates about economic and social policy so seriously when deeper but related questions about the nature, meaning and purpose of life are mostly ignored? Our world is shaped by patterns of power and technology and governance, granted. But is it not obvious that the major challenges of our time have important spiritual elements?
No! Apparently not. It appears to be far from obvious to most people of influence and power that this kind of ‘inner turn’ is called for. Or perhaps it is obvious, but is seen as too nebulous to act upon or too threatening to countenance. Whatever the reason, for those who feel the astonishment, the case has to be made and remade as persuasively as possible.
The political economy that shapes the stories of our lives has a deep relationship with conventional understandings, prevailing purposes and permissible feelings, but that relationship is mostly viewed as part of the setting of politics, rarely part of the plot. When the plot is frenzied, when drama is pervasive and calls for action abound, it is easy to forget that the setting – the context, the assumptions, the norms – is not fixed. To push an inquiry towards spiritual questions is to insist that our setting becomes part of the plot.
Indra Adnan, one of A/UK's co-initiators and a trustee of Perspectiva, wrote these words in the new edition's blurb:
Jonathan’s work on spirituality with the RSA landed a long overdue and widely called-for intellectual inquiry. I know from personal experience in connection with NESTA and the Institute for Contemporary Arts that the challenge of simply undertaking and completing the process cannot be overstated. There is abundant untapped energy in many people who are looking to bring together the usually-separated phenomena of religious practices, personal development, shared existential challenges and political urgency.