Article: The Future of Past Spiritual Traditions, by BernardMcGinn

In the lead article of the current issue of Spiritus (v.15, n. 1,Spring 2015), Bernard McGinn takes a step back from his usual explanation of the value of mysticism and spirituality to come up with a more detailed examination, one that would attempt to address issues that are part and parcel of our contemporary cultural milieu. McGinn sets up the framework of his essay in the following paragraph:

I will begin reflecting on these questions by taking a look at three recent writers who have given serious attention to the radical nature of the challenges posed to spirituality by Modernity, Post-Modernity, and perhaps even the Post-Post-Modern Beast now slouching towards Bethlehem. Each of these writers raises serious questions about the extent to which inherited spiritual traditions are viable today. I do not pretend to give a full account of any of the three, but rather to touch on why reading them has stimulated my thinking about what is involved in creating a future for past spiritual traditions. Nor will I give them equal treatment, because in my view the first of the three has raised the most penetrating questions. The first member of the triad is the French Jesuit Michel de Certeau (1925–1986). The other two are the Belgian philosopher and scholar of religion, Louis Dupré (1925–), and the English theologian Don Cupitt (1934–). All three thinkers express a commitment to Christian theology and spirituality at the same time that they insist that the historical context that provided the soil in which Christian traditions were rooted for centuries has become dry and infertile, despite the efforts of traditionalists to keep it alive by desperate irrigation methods from above and below. The solutions the three authors offer to the dilemma are different, and perhaps none is really satisfactory. If you wait with bated breath for my own clear and convincing answer at the end, you will be disappointed. My purpose, as I said, is not to provide easy answers, but to raise questions about what we are doing when we try to explain why past spiritual traditions are still viable today.

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