Celtic writer John Philip Newell points to A New Harmony

As Editor of ReadTheSpirit, my own words appear in the opening pages of John Philip Newell’s new book, A New Harmony: The Spirit, the Earth, and the Human Soul. My own praise for Newell’s book appears along with words by Barbara Brown Taylor, Richard Rohr and Matthew Fox also recommending Newell’s visionary new volume. That term “visionary” isn’t hyperbole. This book is full of the dreams and fresh ideas John Philip Newell is casting our way this year. He’s hoping we will bite, hoping we will contribute to his tantalizing hopes for a future of global unity. As usual in his books, he writes as a passionate Christian pastor and mystic to all of us: Christians, Muslims, Jews and people of other faiths—or no faith at all. In the opening pages, Matthew Fox writes: “With a book like this, religious history looks less bleak and spirituality much closer to home.”

ON WEDNESDAY, you’ll meet John Philip in our author interview.
TODAY, we’re sharing a tasty morsel from his new book.
ALSO TODAY, we’re launching a new 9/11-related prayer effort, which ReadTheSpirit discussed with John Philip in our interview. It’s called, “I Hope for a World Where …” Check out that story, as well, and add to the prayer.


The word kosmos in ancient Greek means “a harmony of parts.” In the classical world, everything in the universe was viewed as moving in relation to everything else. This ancient understanding of the cosmos is being born afresh today in radically new ways. We are realizing that the whole of reality is one. In nearly every dimension of life—whether economic or religious, scientific or political—there is a growing awareness of earth’s essential interrelatedness. This new-ancient way of seeing is radically challenging us to see ourselves as connected with everything else that exists. And it means that any true vision of reality must also be a cosmology, a way of relating the parts to the whole, of seeing our distinct journeys in relation to the one journey of the universe.

A few years ago, my wife and I went on pilgrimage to the Sinai. There were four of us—Mousa, our desert guide; Hamda, our Bedouin cook; and Ali and me. We slept under the open skies at night, and every morning before sunrise we could hear the crackling of the breakfast fire prepared by Hamda. Somehow in the barren landscape of the Sinai she would find dead roots of desert bushes for kindling in order to freshly bake us unleavened bread for breakfast. Then the great fire of the rising sun would blaze over the eastern horizon to warm our night-chilled bodies.

On the last day, we made our way to Mount Sinai, climbed half of it on camel back, then hiked the centuries-old carved steps of stone to the peak for sunset. No one else was with us on the summit as the setting sun threw its red radiance across the great range of desert peaks. We visited the three shrines of prayer that honor the disclosure of the Holy Presence in this place—one Jewish, one Christian, one Muslim—and descended the mountain in silence. The moon was fat, and its whiteness shone off the desert sand, throwing moon shadows from the high rocks and the sharp turns of our descent. At the mountain base, we approached the fourth-century St. Catherine’s Monastery where we were to spend the night. In the moonlight it looked as it might have looked at any time in its sixteen centuries. And although it held within its walls a Christian monastic community, a burning bush revered by Jewish pilgrims and a mosque prayed in by Muslims from around the world, under the moon’s light it looked as one.

… A New Harmony: The Spirit, the Earth and the Human Soul is written from within the Christian household. It is an attempt to serve the emerging awareness of life’s essential oneness by drawing in part on the ancient wisdom of Jesus. But it is not a book only for Christians. My desire is to communicate across the boundaries of religion and race that have separated us and to honor our distinct inheritances by serving what is deeper still—the oneness of our origins and the oneness of earth’s dstiny.”

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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.

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