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Rediscovery of Awe: Splendor, Mystery, and the Fluid Center of Life

Rediscovery of Awe: Splendor, Mystery, and the Fluid Center of Life
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$19.95 (19.95)

Rediscovery of Awe (Amazon Kindle edition)

"Rediscovery of Awe can not only significantly improve the quality of individual lives; it can also bring great improvements to our culture and our world. These are strong words, but I have very seldom encountered a book with such power and which provides such inspiration.... This book inspires hope, so necessary in our world today. As people develop attitudes and actions centered in awe, our world can change in much-needed ways.... This book is filled with so much wisdom and innovation that it is frustrating to try to do it justice in a review like this."
—John L. Levy for The Humanistic Psychologist, 35

"'enchanted agnosticism'...Schneider's views owe something to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Rollo May (a sometime collaborator), and R.D. Laing. His uplifting vision stands in very good and convincingly inter-faith company. Highly recommended."
Library Journal

"William James noted the power of metaphor to advance understanding of science.... [Schneider's] metaphor of the 'fluid center' is applied to personality and development as well as to social, vocational, and educational training. The proposal is for awe-based training in which the central theme courts a return to the basics of a classic liberal arts education in which a sense of mystery and the inscrutable are explored, rather than explained away. The centrality of faith is affirmed as it is displaced from religion and dogma to a sense of the inscrutable and the mysterious....
The critique of a narrow measurement based psychology needs to be heard, and not simply dismissed, coming from an acknowledged depth psychologist whose profession is on the defensive. What if this metaphor is followed? What if, as Schneider would have us accept, the source of the universe is unknown? What if this unknown is awe inspiring and daunting, in words that echo Rudolf Otto?"
Psychology of Religion Newsletter, APA Division 36 Vol. 29 Fall 2004

"Schneider is concerned here with the "rediscovery of awe," establishing its place at the foundation for a comprehensive psychology. Once again, although this book will enlighten and enrich the therapeutic dyad, Schneider's focus is less on what to "do" with patients and more on exploring that which we all share as human beings. Employing the metaphor of the 'fluid center' to describe a life that is both grounded in experience and open to mystery, Schneider deftly describes the vicissitudes of socialization and maturation, education and vocation, love, parenting and family life, and finally in the life of the political and social collective. Excessive security needs (the center) on one side, and excessive lack of boundedness (fluidity) both beckon and threaten optimal development and life experience. In Schneider's vision, a life-boat kept rocking between this bipolarity finally may arrive at the shore he calls enchanted agnosticism. This shore, of course, is not the end of the journey, but rather is a new adventure in itself. It is a way of designating the personality grounded in the skepticism of the agnostic, while, if I understand him correctly, enjoying the enchantment of something like what Paul Ricoeur once call the second naivite."
—The Ernest Becker Foundation Newsletter, August 2004

Rediscovery of Awe offers a potential bridge between two ostensible adversaries today: science and religion (also conceived as relativism vs. absolutism, atheism vs. theism, and postmodernity vs. fundamentalism).
At its core, Rediscovery of Awe is a practical, psychological translation of an emerging spiritual transformation—a humanistic spirituality. It presents a provocative, and revolutionary, vision. The aim of the book is to revive a sense of awe—the humility and wonder, thrill and anxiety, splendor and mystery of living—in self, society, and spirit. It is an attempt to revive the capacity to be moved. Rediscovery of Awe promotes a new relation to life, and illustrates this relation over a broad range: from child-raising to education to the workplace, and from religion to politics and ethics. Set against our awe-deprived times, in which we tend to favor either a high tech, consumerist mentality or, contrastingly, a dogmatic, fundamentalist orientation, it presents a dynamic and rejuvenating alternative.
Written in an engaging yet scholarly manner, Rediscovery of Awe is different from inspirational books in that it aims at revolutionizing, not just our individual lives, but the institutions that shape and inform them. It is a hard-hitting critique, but also a challenge to the very purpose of our contemporary lives, a purpose that begs to be nurtured and explored.
At this time, two dominant worldviews—nihilistic relativism and dogmatic fundamentalism—threaten to tear our world asunder, Rediscovery of Awe offers a restorative alternative. It weds faith to doubt, and the depth and pathos of religiosity to the openness and discernment of science. The starting point of consciousness is awe. We humans first experience the world as overwhelming. From the moment we are first aware, we are aware of our meagerness. From the moment we reflect on the world, we sense how hopeless, helpless, and vulnerable we are. And yet, close on the heels of this despair is a riveting sense of possibility… We are thrilled, enthralled, and exalted by our condition as much as it overpowers us. There are many problems with conventional maxims of balance. The conventional center is dull and static whereas the proposal of this book is a ‘fluid’ center wherein the possibility for a poignant and passionate life becomes attainable.

Rediscovery of Awe is amazingly revolutionary!”
—Natalie Rogers, Ph.D., Author of The Creative Connection: Expressive Arts as Healing

"At the center of Kirk Schneider’s book, Rediscovery of Awe, lies a powerful metaphor. Indeed, by combining “fluid” and “center” Schneider breaks new ground. Our general tendency is to imagine the center of things as solid or at the very least structured. “Fluid center,” in contrast, evokes a sense of deep significance at the heart of things without any rigid forms or lines. The title of Schneider’s book is Rediscovery of Awe, and that is precisely what this book is. Here too we are stretched to the limit by a paradox far outside our ordinary expectations. Even humanist and existentialist psychologists are still wedded to science or to concrete phenomena and not to something as insubstantial as “awe.” Awe lies at the center of my great friend Abraham Joshua Heschel’s philosophy of religion. But we do not expect it to be the touchstone of reality of even such an outstanding existentialist psychologist as Kirk Schneider
"When we turn to the contents of the book itself, we find a range and scope far beyond that of any living psychologist that I know, and I know most of the outstanding ones. If we imagine that Schneider’s focus will be mostly on religion, theology, mysticism, or the transcendent, we shall be astonished to find that much of his book deals with education and social problems, including quite specific and concrete suggestions for both fields.
"It may seem strange to some that Schneider, who has often published criticisms of transpersonal psychology, as it is adumbrated by Kenneth Wilber and others, is nonetheless open to the transcendent in a way that few psychologists are. 'The fluid center,' as Schneider writes in the introduction to his book, 'begins and unfolds through awe, the humility and wonder of living. It is precisely through awe that we come to know how daunting life is and how readily our presumptions crumble, and yet, conversely, it is precisely through awe that we are awakened to life’s majesty.'
Schneider’s book is a remarkable synthesis of all his past published work, such as his book on horror and the holy, plus new central themes such as the spirit of carnival, depth therapy as social vision, and responsibility as the corollary of magnificence and mystery. Schneider’s personal synthesis is at the same time an address and challenge not only to every psychologist but also to every thoughtful person in the field of helping, healing, education, and social betterment. It is impossible to overestimate its significance."
—Maurice Friedman, author of The Worlds of Existentialism, The Healing Dialogue in Psychotherapy, and The Confirmation of Otherness: In Family, Community, and Society.

"Kirk J. Schneider has written a brilliant and inspiring account of the coming shift from a competency-based to an awe-based world with the necessary faith in the inscrutable, and yet a hard-nosed realism about the inevitable persistence of pain and human limitations that belies the faux-cheeriness of New Age versions of humanistic psychology. Presenting an enchanted agnosticism that welds the skepticism of science and the exaltation and zeal of religion, the veneration of mystery wedded to the solemnity of responsibility, Schneider gives humanity a challenge and a path to liberation."
—Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun: A Bimonthly Jewish and Interfaith Critique of Politics, Culture and Society; Author: Spirit Matters: Global Healing and the Wisdom of the Soul

“Awe is the stone rejected by many parts of Western civilization with its materialist and reductionist assumptions, but this book makes awe a cornerstone of a new and intriguing theory about human life.”
—David Elkins, Ph.D., Author of Beyond Religion, Professor of Psychology Emeritus, Pepperdine University

“Really excellent... Reading Rediscovery of Awe was like wrestling with holy writ.”
—E. Mark Stern, Ed.D., Professor of Psychology Emeritus, Iona College, Editor Emeritus, The Psychotherapy Patient. former president of Division 36 (Psychology of Religion) of the APA

Rediscovery of Awe is an inspirational, take-charge self-help guide for rejuvenating one's public and personal issues alike."
The Bookwatch, August 2004

"In awe one feels profoundly the immense." Goethe (Faust)

"Kirk Schneider maintains that the awesomeness of life has been ignored by most psychologists and psychotherapists, but he brings it front and center. His prescription for "awe-based living" draws upon developmental studies, social criticism, existential philosophy, literary and cinematic classics, and his own case studies. The result is a book that throws its net widely, drawing together faith, magnificence, mystery, the spirit of Carnival, and other elements needed for a juicy stew. Rediscovery of Awe presents a challenging recipe, and its readers will savor every chapter of this provocative volume."
—Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., Co-editor, Varieties of Anomalous Experience and recipient of the APA award, '2002 Distinguished Contribution to the International Advancement of Psychology'

"I love Kirk Schneider’s efforts to reinvent psychology on the basis of awe. In the spirit of Rabbi Heschel, Schneider challenges us as individuals and as a culture to finally put awe first. He spells out for us what this would mean to psychology, politics, education, culture and daily life. A needed gift and necessary challenge to get our species alive and moving again in directions that truly honor life and are sustainable."
—Matthew Fox, author of Original Blessings and president of the University for Creation Spirituality

"In a welcome awakening of the finest wisdom of Humanistic Psychology, Kirk Schneider leads us to rediscover a long forgotten sense of awe in the very center of our lives."
—Allan Combs; author of The Radiance of Being: Understanding the Grand Integral Vision


Part I: What Has Been Lost and How It Can Be Recovered?

  • Toward an Awe-Based Psychology
  • The Fluid Center: A Definition
  • Roots, Routes, and Patterns
  • Spirals of Development
  • Storm at the Center: Life-Transformation in a Typical American Child
  • Break in the Spiral/Tear in the Fabric
  • The Kinship with Classic Horror
  • Witnesses to Wounding
  • Grapplers with Groundlessness
  • Does Vivacity Require Trauma?
  • Summary of the Fluid Center Developmental Position

    Part II: Visions of Recovery: Social, Vocational, and Educational

  • Templates
  • The Spirit of Carnival
  • The Structure of Carnival
  • Conditions for a Social Fluid Center
  • Possible Scenarios
  • Practical Aspects
  • Social Gains
  • Hidden Treasures of "Horror": Classic Horror as Awe-Based Illumination
  • Tragic Optimism and the Poignancy of Real Life
  • Depth Therapy as Social Vision
  • Depth Therapy and Why it is so Needed Today
  • Transhumanism and the Transhumanist Threat

    Part III: The Fluid Center of Faith

  • Sub Specie Aeternae and the Capacity to be Moved
  • The Temptation to Partialize (A Human Predicament)
  • The Present Challenges of Faith: Magnificence, Mystery, and Responsibility
  • Faith in the Inscrutable as a Present Task
  • The Ethical Task

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