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Behold the Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion Paperback – February 12, 1972


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 12, 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394717619
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394717616
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 4.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Comments Upon Original Publication Of

Behold The Spirit

"I regard [the] book as one of the best -- in fact the only first-rate -- book in recent years in the field of religion. It gets to the fundamental problem, it honestly sees the weaknesses of contemporary Protestantism, and it attempts to diagnose and cure the evil in the only way a cure can be effected, namely by a doctrine with content at the basic metaphysical level.

"It also goes further than this, recognizing contributions from Oriental religion which simply are not present in contemporary Western religion. More than this it shows how the traditional Western doctrine of the Incarnation and the Atonement can be reconciled with and combined with the intuitive religion of the Orient, such as that of Zen Buddhism. These are exceedingly important and outstanding achievements."

F.S.C. Northrop

"Behold the Spirit will, I think, prove to be one of the half-dozen most significant books on religion published in the twentieth century." Canon Iddings Bell

From the Inside Flap

This study of the necessity of mystical religion, also shows how traditional Western doctrine can be reconciled with the intuitive religion of the Orient.

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Customer Reviews

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I highly recommend to all interested in the subject.
James
I have already given a copy of this book to friend and bought another copy for myself, and am reading it through a second time.
Gary P. Biester
_Behold The Spirit_ is one of the most clearly written, profound, and enlightening books on theology I have ever read.
Ross James Browne

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Ross James Browne on May 13, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
_Behold The Spirit_ is one of the most clearly written, profound, and enlightening books on theology I have ever read. This book represents the ideal combination of profundity and readability - never again will you say that a book must be difficult to read just because it deals with extremely complex and deep subject matter. Like most of Alan Watts' books, _Behold the Spirit_ is an absolute pleasure to read, yet competently deals with universal metaphysical questions which have troubled man for many centuries. For instance, Alan Watts talks at length about the problem of what God was doing before He created the universe. Was He just sitting there alone? The answer can be found in the book.
To me, this type of theological question is quite fascinating. I appreciated the unorthodox and critical approach Watts took in examining a wide range of theological and general metaphysical issues. In other words, this is not an evangelical or fundamentalist Christian book; it is a critical and sceptical examination of Christianity and man's belief in God. I highly recommend this work to anyone, and if you only want to read one or two of Alan Watts' most important works, they should be _Behold the Spirit_ and _Psychotherapy East and West_. These two works represent the solid core of Alan Watts' philosophy. They are rigourous, profound, and comprehensive psychological works which are also remarkably succinct, miserly, and readable. With Alan Watts, you can obtain large amounts of elightenment in a short amount of time, with minimal aggravation and headache.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Nicq MacDonald on March 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
Christianity is, today, in a strange place. While the religion is in steep decline in Europe, conservative, literalist forms are on the rise in an America hungry for some spiritual depth. Yet these forms also invite a great deal of disdain from seekers hungry for a faith that gives deep meaning without insulting their intelligence.

Written almost sixty years ago, Alan Watts "Behold the Spirit" is as relevant today, if not moreso, than it was then. Addressing the acute problems within both Catholicism (which is used loosely, including Orthodoxy and "High Church" protestants such as Episcopalians and Anglicans) and Protestantism, Watts chalks them up to an irrelevancy steming from the periods they evolved out of. As Watts points out, the early Christianity of the bible, Paul, the Church Fathers, the Neoplatonists, and Augustine was the high wisdom of a dying civilization- Rome. The Christianity of the medieval era was the literalist religion of a newly born Western civilization, while the Christianity of the Renaissance and modernity is the stripped-down moral faith of an adolescent civilization rebelling against it's roots. In order to gain a wisdom appropriate for a mature civilization, Watts contends, we must look to the wisdom of other mature civilizations- the Christianity of the ancients, and the mystical wisdom of the Eastern religions.

Watts goes on to discuss what a "nondual" Christianity and Christian mysticism would look like ("we must develop a Christian way of washing our hands"), the problems with philosophical modernity and Protestant moralism, and the issues of spiritual "monkey business"- thinking that we can attain sanctity by imitating forms rather than recognizing the spirit.

Overall, an important contribution to modern theology, and a worthwhile, though quick, read.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By andy vertrees on December 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
During my days as a resident assistance of a christian fellowship i discovered this book in a rather large box donated to me by my sister. Amongst the books their were titles by Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copland. I perused these and hastily laid them aside. then i commenced this book by Dr. Watts and my my jaw hit the floor. what a radical departure from the sterile christianity I was mired in.
I started to incorporate Watt's teaching in my bible studiesand eventually i left that bastion of provincial thought and started
my own search.
All of alan's writings are absolutely enlightening i would recommend this book to anyone, no matter what they denominate themselves
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Gary P. Biester on July 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is quite simply a great book. I stayed away from it, even after a Catholic priest friend recommended it 30 years ago, because I knew Watts had essentially repudiated the church (in his case, the Anglican communion) and Christianity, and returned to his earlier Buddhist practice.

Whatever one may think of where Watts ended up late in life, this is quite simply outstanding and completely orthodox Christian theology, and treats the great doctrines of the faith through the prism of mystical experience while integrating the thought of many of the great Catholic mystics (e.g., JP de Cassaude, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Genoa, Meister Eckhart).

I was quite surprised to find that his methodology relies so heavily on Aquinas. His grasp of Aquinas' theology is sound, and his idea that the incarnation is an eternal expression of God's loving acceptance and oneness with his creation, not a shield for divine wrath, is a refreshing antidote to much of what passes for theology in evangelical circles. His adaptation of Vedanta to convey the idea of God as non-dual...that God can create REAL, OTHER beings and things and yet remain in a sense the one and only reality...the "one without a second" (I doubt I am doing his argument justice here)...was really eye-opening.

There are also flashes of pure poetry...his lengthy description of the 'purposelessness' of much of creation as a testament to God's sense of humor and loving prodigality stands as a challenge to a variety of atheisms that are based on Western bourgeois notions of 'usefulness.'

I have already given a copy of this book to friend and bought another copy for myself, and am reading it through a second time.
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