Spiritual Activism Training Course
Spiritual Activism: Leadership as Service, comprising 20 Masters level credits in 200 notional study hours.
The module will be offered by Alastair McIntosh BSc MBA PhD, a Fellow and former director of the CHE, Visiting Fellow of the Academy for Irish Cultural Heritages at the University of Ulster, Visiting Professor of Human Ecology at the University of Strathclyde, and a Quaker, activist, writer and broadcaster.
Module Entry Requirements
Acceptance as a CHE MSc, Diploma or Certificate student and on making specific application to attend the module. This is an advanced module, designed to address the needs of students who have already started psychological and/or spiritual work on themselves, typically because they have found themselves “exercised” by challenges faced in their past engagement as activists for social, ecological or spiritual change. It is not suitable for those who are in the very early stages of their unfolding, or who do not have a conviction that their vocation requires a deepening of their psychospiritual grounding.
Intending students will be asked to write an A4 page stating why they want to do the module, what their hopes for it are and where they feel it may be challenging for them. This may then be discussed with the student to help them discern if the module is really right for them. With the student's agreement, and possibly with editing, this may subsequently be shared with other members of the class as a way of helping everyone to get to know each other.
An activist is one who actively “engages the Powers” in the world, often in explicit or implicit leadership or inspirational roles. By “spiritual activism”, we mean activism in social, environmental or religious realms where the activist has concluded both that there exists, and that they have a need to draw upon, spiritual bodies of knowledge to guide and ground their vocation in human ecology as an applied discipline.
Module Aims and Objectives
The aim of this module is to offer students:
By the end of this module the student (henceforth, “you”) will have:
The curriculum will be taught partly from structured background reading, and partly by group work at 2-day workshops based on the experience that students share. Timings shown here are an approximate guide only as if primary study is spread over a ten week period.
1. Epistemology of “spirituality” and “activism”. Activism as an aspect of human ecology - the study of human community in relationship with the Earth, in relationship with one another, and, arguably, in relationship with the divine (weeks 1–2).
2. Structure and dynamics of the psyche. Explored mainly through Jungian and post-Jungian perspectives, addressing shamanic and prophetic dimensions of social change and viewing colonisation and globalisation as a battle for the soul as well as for resources (weeks 3-4).
3. Engagement with power. The dynamics of power, leadership, charisma in working for change, including the relationship between activism, the deep Self and the ego (weeks 5–6).
4. Dangers and discernment. Power abuses such as cultic and Messianic syndromes, and tools of discernment in testing, guiding and inspiring leadings and vocation (weeks 7-8).
5. Sustenance, service and self-realisation. Avoiding burnout and sellout by understanding leadership as service in furtherance of spiritual community (weeks 9–10).
Teaching and Learning Strategies
These will comprise:
Core Reading List
Bryman, Alan, 2001, Social Research Methods, (Oxford: Oxford University Press). An excellent text on both quantitative and qualitative methodology. Pay particular attention to Chapter 19 which addresses grounded theory. Students undertaking research with me (eg. theses) should see also the postscript to this list.
de Mello, Anthony, 1984 (1978), Sadhana: a way to God, (India or USA; Gujarat Sahitya Prakash or Image Books, £9.99) De Mello was an Indian Jesuit priest who, under Pope John Paul II, lost the imprimatur of the Roman Catholic Church because his writings were considered too interfaith and risqué. This is a step-by-step handbook of mystical practice, but de Mello has been careful to present the exercises in the first half in ways that may be found acceptable to those of many or no particular religious tradition. In the second half the book becomes explicitly Christian.
Green, Tova, Woodrow, Peter & Peavey, Fran, 1994, Insight and Action: How to discover and support a life of integrity and commitment to change, (Philadelphia; New Society Publishers, £9.99). This is a great little text that presents several approaches to discernment – it is needed for the second assignment. As it is out of print, order a copy second hand from amazon.com at an early opportunity.
Grof, Stanislav & Christina (eds) 1989, Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis, (New York; Tarcher/Putman, £14.50). This wonderful collection of papers that addresses the fact that spiritual emergence often causes psychological emergencies. We need to be aware of this, both for ourselves and for our impact on others. Contributors include Ram Dass, Roberto Assagioli and R. D. Laing.
Gottlieb, Roger (ed) 1996, This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment, (London; Routledge, £19.99). A fabulous sourcebook of writings, ancient and modern, from many of the world’s spiritual traditions including deep ecology and ecofeminism. A book to be dipped into rather than systematically read.
Jacobi, Jolande, 1973 (1942), The Psychology of C. G. Jung, (London or Yale; Routledge & Kegan Paul or Yale University Press, £13.95). Jung’s framework for understanding the structure and dynamics of the psyche is implicit to much transpersonal psychology. This work has some very helpful illustrations, but be warned that it is an advanced introduction, and Jung himself was sometimes tentative, obscure, and possibly missed the mark – so don’t read it thinking you’re stupid if you don’t get everything.
McIntosh, Alastair, 2001/2004, Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power, (London; Aurum Press, £12.99), and Rekindling Community: Connecting People, Environment and Spirituality (Totnes: Green Books, 2008). Yes, these are my own books, but they pull together much diverse theoretical material and focus it onto effective case studies of spiritual activism. In teaching this module I will presume you have a good knowledge of what’s in these books, and I therefore recommend that you read them first on this list. Note that the theoretical material in Rekindling Community can be downloaded in greater depth in PhD thesis-by-published-works form at http://www.alastairmcintosh.com/rekindlingcommunity.htm#research . Those who wish to relate spiritual activism to climate change may also wish to read my Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2008, £8.99).
Wink, Walter, 1992, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination, (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, £16.99). I think this is emerging as the most significant book of spiritual activist theology of the 20th century. Wink understands “spirituality” as the “interiority” of people, institutions, nations, etc.. In this world that spirituality is inevitably “fallen” or corrupted, and the task of the activist is to name, unmask and engage these “Powers that Be” and call them back to a higher, God-given vocation. This is a deeply important advanced work. It took me 2 years to read it, so don’t rush at it, but do read at least part 1 and then see how it goes.
Reading List Postscript:
Students who undertake applied research with me will often be expected to work with some variation of "grounded theory" as a lens through which mainstream academia will be able to get to grips with our work. For these, I add to this list the following works:
Charmaz, Kathy (2006) Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide Through Qualitative Analysis (London: Sage, £23.99). Grounded theory is an approach to qualitative data analysis by which theory emerges primarily from what is found on the ground, rather than being applied to it. Those who are strong on ideology dislike it as the outcomes may not fit their theories. Those strong on quantifiable empiricism consider it too subjective. Those who think that reality emerges from inbetween these places vibe with it, and that's where I stand most but not all of the time. As such, I like my students to be well grounded in he principles of grounded theory.
Gouding, Christina (2002) Grounded Theory: A Pratical Guide for Management, Business and Market Researchers (London: Sage, £22.99). I like this book because much of my own research background was influenced by my MBA, where managers tend to employ a "do what works cost effectively" approach. Many of the techniques of applied market research could otherwise be described as grounded theory. As such, this book offers a useful nuts and bolts approach and is a good companion to Charmaz.
The following book is optional. Its suitability as a guide to undertaking participative spiritual research depends very much on where you're coming from. I have posted a review of it to Amazon which expresses why I consider it an important but conflicted work.
Heron, John, 1998, Sacred Science: Person-centred Inquiry into the Spiritual and the Subtle (Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books, £20).
This will be in two equal parts:
Requirements for a Pass
A mark of 50% or above overall - which is an aggregate of the marks given equal weighting from each part of the assessment. A mark of 70% or more constitutes Distinction.
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Last Updated: 10 September 2021