Katie's Reviews > The Power of Ritual: How to Create Meaning and Connection in Everything You Do

The Power of Ritual by Casper ter Kuile
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Me: YES! Casper ter Kuile wrote a book! I adore Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Even though I’m not *precisely* the target audience for that podcast, I get so much from it. I’m excited to learn more about the philosophy behind it!

The Book: Here’s Casper’s basic approach to infusing everyday secular life with spiritual practices. Examples! Anecdotes! A little bit of new vocabulary!

Me: Wonderful! This is really bringing these ideas to life! Quick question-- what exactly does Casper mean when he uses words like “spiritual” or “sacred” in a non-religious context?

The Book: That’s… a hard question. There’s no single correct definition for those words.

Me: Sure, but this is the central idea of the book. Even if there’s no single definition, can I hear how Casper defines them for this purpose?

The Book: Um… it’s about meaning and connection.

Me: Huh. I wasn’t expecting a dissertation, but I guess I was hoping for a little more rigor.

The Book: There’s plenty of rigor. Look at all these quotes!

Me: The quotes are nice, but they’re just things someone said that Casper liked. I’m not getting a strong sense of authority or unified philosophy behind this. Can you outline exactly what Casper is trying to say here?

The Book: Yes! Here’s a quote from the last chapter:
“I hope this book has helped you see two things. First, that you already have a host of rituals we might call spiritual practices--even if you’d never use that language. Reading, walking, eating, resting, reflecting: these are legitimate and worthy of your attention and care, and they can be the foundation of a life of deep connection.”

Me: Okay. I can vibe with that. I think you made a strong case for the power in ritualizing everyday experiences and showed me an interesting collection of ways different people already do that. I definitely feel I understand your approach to spirituality better and found some things I’d like to try myself.

The Book: “Second, I hope you feel empowered to translate ancient traditions to enrich those modern practices and that you feel permission to be creative in combining the ancient and the emergent.”

Me: Woah. Are we just gonna… speed past that with no explanation? Why do you consider yourself positioned to grant me “permission” to do that?

The Book: There’s untapped potential here! “We have inherited great traditions from our spiritual ancestors…”

Me: But you’ve said many times that you aren’t yourself religious. Is this really your heritage? Isn’t it a problem to strip these elements of their historical, cultural, religious, and racial contexts?

The Book: They need to be “remixed” because they’re too old to matter. As I point out in every chapter, religious traditions are old, which makes them outdated and irrelevant.

Me: What about the millions of living religious people who use these practices to connect to actual beliefs about morality and reality?

The Book: Yeah, but religious people don’t actually believe most of that stuff anyway.

Me: ...what?

The Book: Yeah, I don’t have a “systematic theology” that explains the world around me in a unified way, and I don’t think anyone else does. “...Frankly, I think that's how most people actually live their lives--religious or not… We can think one thing in the morning and another in the afternoon."

Me: Wow. That’s a really bold claim. I’d love for you to explain that more. Maybe tell me your rationale?

The Book: It’s not that complicated. I mean, the ancient Greeks had a whole pantheon that supposedly explains the origins of the earth, but individuals didn’t actually believe that stuff was literally true. So what I do here is fine.

Me: Yeah, but this book doesn’t borrow any spiritual practices from the ancient Greeks. Or any similar tradition. So that’s a little disingenuous.

The Book: The point is, you have to start looking at religious traditions as *for you,* even if you’re not from that culture and don’t know much about it. The rituals of world faiths are available to you, and you should take and twist and remix them to make something that makes you feel good. If it makes you feel grounded, connected, and reflective, you have a right to it.

Me: I think that's my biggest problem. I’m on board with a lot of this book, but it’s underpinned by a gross spiritual colonialism that is never acknowledged.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advance review copy of this title at no charge. No money changed hands for this review and all opinions are my own.
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Reading Progress

April 24, 2020 – Shelved
Started Reading
May, 2020 – Finished Reading
May 18, 2020 –
page 92
41.07% "I can already tell this is going to be very difficult to rate... hopefully I’ll get a long conclusion that will help me clarify my thoughts"
June 8, 2020 – Shelved as: nonfiction

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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Gail I think Casper does address some of the questions you raise:
-There's a section in the introduction about "A Note on that Word 'Spiritual'." Though he doesn't pin it down in a secular context, exactly, I think this is his best definition of what it means to him.
-In Chapter 4, he specifically warns against "spiritual tourism in which we desperately seek out transformative experiences that come from cultures that are not our own," especially traditions that have been marginalized and colonized. He also suggests throughout the book that people look to their own background/culture/heritage for inspiration. So, I hear your nervousness about that, but I don't think it's true that spiritual colonialism is *never* acknowledged.
I totally respect your views on the book. I just wanted to add some more detail since this is currently the top review and people may want to know more!

message 2: by Tam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tam This is such an accurate review. Thank you

message 3: by Jill (new) - rated it 1 star

Jill Marzolino thank you for taking the time to write this out! I've been struggling to describe the hand-wavy voice of this booklet

Khaled Thanks for the excellent review

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