Spiritual Activism: Leadership as Service
By Alastair McIntosh and Matt Charmichael — 2015

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Over the past half century the issues facing activists have changed, as has our understanding and awareness of spirituality. For activists, spiritual philosophy is rising up the agenda because it offers distinct, tried and tested approaches to deep questions: Where did it all go wrong? What does it mean to be human? What is the place of leadership? What is the nature of power?

The book begins by defining spirituality for a modern audience of all faiths and beliefs, and goes on to consider the problems and necessities of true leadership. Drawing on a rich history of spirituality and activism, from The Bhagavad Gita, to the Hebrew prophets, to Carl Jung, it is both guide and inspiration for people involved in activism for social or environmental justice.

Click here to read sample chapter.

The text is enriched with tales from the authors’ own experiences. It contains case studies of inspirational spiritual activists (including Mama Efua, Desmond Tutu, Gerrard Winstanley, Sojourner Truth and Julia Butterfly Hill), which demonstrate the transformative power of spiritual principles in action.


ISBN10 = 0857843001

ISBN 13 = 9780857843005 


About the Authors

Alastair McIntosh is a Scottish writer, scholar, broadcaster, and activist on social, environmental, and spiritual issues. He is a fellow of the Centre for Human Ecology, an honorary fellow in the School of Divinity at Edinburgh University, and an honorary senior research fellow in the College of Social Sciences at Glasgow University. He has written numerous books, including Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition; Radical Human Ecology; and Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power.

Matt Carmichael is a climate activist, English teacher, and writer. He was a founder board member of Schumacher North, a forum devoted to exploring and promoting the ideas of deep ecology, sustainable development, and social transformation, and is the creator of the Delta Course, an intensive course on spirituality for groups of people from any or no religious background.

Reviewers’ Comments

“This book itself is a spiritual journey, with a grounding in psychology, history and theology. It helps us to explore how we can bring our deepest values into action at this crucial time for the world!”
—Starhawk, author, The Spiral Dance and The Empowerment Manual

“This book offers a brave, bold and very timely guide to doing just that. If you think you want to change the world, you need to read it.” —Paul Kingsnorth, author, One No, Many Yeses: A Journey to the Heart of the Global Resistance Movement
“The perilous path we tread is littered with burnt out, sold out, freaked out activists. If we wish to engage effectively and for the long run in this world full of wounds, for our efforts for Earth and Justice to be truly sustainable, it behoves us to take great care of our psychological and spiritual wellbeing. This book provides us with an important tool for the journey.”
—John Seed, founder, The Rainforest Information Centre

“The word brilliant is overused, but it genuinely applies to Spiritual Activism. No other book brings together social change theory with insights from psychology and spirituality like this book does.”
—Brian D. McLaren, speaker; activist; author, We Make the Road by Walking

“With its clarion call that spirituality is central to activism, this is truly a book for our age, challenging the preconceptions of most activists, let alone those who still see spirituality solely as ‘an inner journey.”
—Sir Jonathan Porritt, first chair of UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission; former director, Friends of the Earth

“This is a refreshing and heartening book. It inspires positive action with a rich and skilful integration of spiritual philosophies, psychology and case studies of great activists.”
—Katrina Shields, author, In the Tiger’s Mouth

“Can we somehow manage to act both rightly and effectively? McIntosh and Carmichael have carefully studied the obstacles that have always made this look so hard. Their careful, sober reasoning and their case studies, reveal a map that leads the right way.” —Dr. Mary Midgely, philosopher

“For any of us who find that the spiritual moment flows from the practical, that prayer (or song, or silence) refreshes on the knife-edge of activism, this book will be an invaluable resource and inspiration. It addresses questions of power, leadership and accountability with honesty, insight and wisdom, and speaks with humanity and humour on the importance of community in human development.”
—Rev. Kathy Galloway, first woman leader, the Iona Community

“Ever since the first Gulf War in 1991, Alastair McIntosh has stood in solidarity with our community to strengthen interfaith relationships. I warmly welcome the recognition in Spiritual Activism that true Islam can contribute to human rights, justice and peace for all in today’s world.”
—Dr. Bashir Maan, first elected Muslim politician in the UK; former president, Glasgow Central Mosque

“Nuclear disarmament, as this thoughtful book suggests, is more than a matter of dismantling the weapons. We must also dismantle our minds and hearts to change our current ideas of true security.” —Bruce Kent, Vice President, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

“We’ve tried to heal what ails us and our world with smartness, money, technology, economic growth, policy, and politics–all necessary and all insufficient. Having tried everything else, it is now time to add spirit exercised with discipline, going to the heart of the matter where wholeness, healing, and Holy converge. Highly recommended.” —David W. Orr, professor, Oberlin College; author, Down to the Wire

“To my fellow activists, even the most sceptical, I insist read this excellent book and learn some vital lessons from the most successful and longest lasting social movements in history.” —George Marshall, founder, Climate Outreach Information Network


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