In an age of religious fundamentalist violence around the world, it is heartening to read poet and cultural historian William Irwin’s Thompson’s contention that a new form of post-religious spirituality is emerging in our planetary civilization, one that is more appropriate to our new electronic and globally interconnected noetic polities. This little book is a Vade Mecum of the cultural evolutionary news to keep in one’s pocket to read along with the day’s emotionally manipulative political news.
Thompson shows us that, like a dying star in supernova, the explosion of religious violence is a sign of medieval religions’ death and not their rebirth. The brilliant thirteenth-century Renaissance that gave us the Gothic Cathedrals and the Convivencia of Christian, Jews, and Muslims in southern Spain was followed by the Black Death and the Inquisition, but the Italian Renaissance still took off in fifteenth-century Florence, as Giotto was followed by Fra Angelico and the syncretic school of Chartres was followed by Cosimo di Medici’s Florentine Academy. The Big Picture that the poet and cultural historian can provide enables us to participate in the larger processes of cultural transformation at work in our world.