Restoring the Soul of the World: Our Living Bond with Nature's Intelligence

Restoring the Soul of the World: Our Living Bond with Nature's Intelligence

David Fideler
Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2014. 310 pp., $18.95.

The chance to read Restoring the Soul of the World has been quite a gift to me. This book is exquisitely researched, and at times uses deeply poetic language to drive home its main point: our reality is far more complex and interconnected than the dry, dead, and purely mechanistic worldview promoted by modernity.

For someone whose formal education ended several decades ago, Fideler's rich and comprehensive content was a convenient way to update my knowledge in many fields. On the scientific front, I learned that since my school days, many discoveries have been made in cosmology. Readers of "a certain age," still mainly picturing the universe as a stable entity — a single solar system surrounded by eight planets — and only vaguely aware of its position within the Milky Way galaxy, are in for an exciting revelation. And though I have read many explanations of quantum physics, Fideler's rendition of what he calls this "spooky" world allowed me to finally glimpse some astonishing implications if what occurs at the micro level can in any way suggest forces that determine our reality at the macro level.

Fideler also provides a historical perspective few of us ever learned in school. He recounts how early peoples had perceived the world as animated by divine presences, but the Enlightenment ushered in a purely scientific and mechanistic worldview that separated us from nature. Incorporating numerous philosophical, spiritual, and existential perspectives into recent scientific findings, Fideler challenges readers to expand our perceptions outward. He asks us also to accept an interconnected view of ourselves as part of a resacralized universe that we now know is not only alive, but constantly expanding. Amid all this, he manages to include a wonderful primer in depth psychology, some meaningful observations about alchemy, art, beauty, and gardening — and even gave me to understand why a person born and educated in the U.S. would choose to live in Sarajevo.

What becomes evident in reading this book is that we are living in a transitional time. Thanks to recent scientific findings, and global connections that allow us to easily incorporate information from all different fields and cultures into our understandings, modernity's mechanistic view of reality is clearly giving way to something new. Sadly, much of the conventional world either has yet to explicitly catch on to this fact, or else reactively fights against it. Because of this, most of us are living a myth in decline.

Fideler describes the experience Edgar Mitchell and a few other astronauts had when given the opportunity to look back and view the earth from outer space. While most of us may tend to think of earth as an entity divided up by strict geographical and arbitrary political boundaries, these men were able to recognize the fragile and beautiful nature of the living earth as an organic unity. Fideler proposes that this inspiring perspective from the astronauts was a symbolic and historical turning point in human evolution. For those of us who will never have the opportunity to travel in space, Restoring the Soul of the World introduces us to the expanded perspective such activity can inspire, and predicts the type of consciousness that will follow modernity's limited perceptions.

Fideler challenges us to abandon the myth in decline that still dominates the conventional world and begin to incorporate postmodern scientific, cultural, philosophical, historical, psychological, spiritual, and artistic perspectives into our worldview. Though I have read other books on related topics, Restoring the Soul of the World finally drove home for me how connections among the various disciplines can bring us to the exciting perspective of a postmodern reality.

I am greatly looking forward to finding the time to reread this book to cement the new education I gained from it. I especially want to ruminate on how Fideler derived his ambitious conclusion that "according to the new cosmology life is a natural stage in the self-organization and community-building power of matter" (my emphasis).

I wish could assign Fideler's work as required reading for anyone in a position to influence public policy and the lives of others: politicians, executives of large corporations, educators, all clergy (especially fundamentalists), and even parents. Perhaps a watered-down version could be incorporated into the curriculum for school children, and cosmology could become a required high school course!

David Fideler is one of the clearest and most authoritative voices yet for a connected, unitive worldview. The perspective he shares could truly move our society forward in a positive direction. Inquiring minds will want to summon the energy to read and digest this ambitious content for themselves — perhaps multiple times.

Margaret Placentra Johnston

The reviewer is the author of Faith beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind (Quest Books).