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Wonder: From Emotion to Spirituality
Synopses & Reviews
The attempt to identify the emotional sources of religion goes back to antiquity. In an exploration that bridges science and spirituality, Robert Fuller makes the convincing case that a sense of wonder is a principal source of humanity's belief in the existence of an unseen order of life. Like no other emotion, Fuller argues, wonder prompts us to pause, admire, and open our hearts and minds.
With a voice that seamlessly blends the scientific and the contemplative, Fuller defines wonder in keeping with the tradition of Socrates--as an emotion related to curiosity and awe that stimulates engagement with the immediate physical world. He draws on the natural and social sciences to explain how wonder can, at the same time, elicit belief in the existence of a more-than-physical reality. Chapters examining emotions in evolutionary biology and the importance of wonder in human cognitive development alternate with chapters on John Muir, William James, and Rachel Carson, whom Fuller identifies as "exemplars of wonder." The writings and lives of these individuals express a functional side of emotion: that the very survival of life on earth today may depend on the empathy, compassion, and care that are aroused by a sense of wonder.
Forging new pathways between the social sciences, philosophy, and cultural history, Wonder deepens our understanding of the complex sources of personal spirituality and fulfillment.
"It seems self-contradictory that one could write tediously about wonder, but religious studies scholar Fuller (Spiritual but Not Religious: Understanding Unchurched America) manages to do just that as he chronicles the study of wonder's evolutionary-adaptive uses in Darwin's The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals and its ethical applications in philosopher Martha Nussbaum's writings on emotions. Wonder opens us to an unseen world beyond ourselves, Fuller observes, permitting us to think of wonder more as a religious sensibility than an emotion. Fuller offers short case studies — of John Muir, William James and Rachel Carson — to show how these three saw the world around them as an ineffable mystery whose organic unity calls for an experience of wonder rather than a cold scientific explanation. Fuller prosaically concludes that wonder functions as a neurophysiological response to unexpected events and that it seeks to penetrate what can't be seen; thus, wonder is 'one of the principal sources of belief in an unseen order.' Fuller's book is repetitious — he relates the story about the lack of the word 'wonder' in psychology textbooks three times in close succession — and reveals little compelling or new information. 3 illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Clearly written, this convincing and compelling work makes a significant contribution to the understanding of human religiosity. Essential."
-- Choice "Fuller places his own book within the larger project to understand 'spirituality in the flesh'. He has earned the reader's esteem by the care with which he establishes his categories."
-- Journal of Religion "Fascinating--a must read for anyone who is curious about the human instinct to believe in the unknown."
Dean Hamer, author of The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes "This exciting, groundbreaking inquiry. . . . invites us to think about religion in a new way."
John Corrigan, Florida State University "The thesis of Wonder is a tight and telling one--it throws new light on a number of intellectual topics."
Jeffrey J. Kripal, Rice University
Bridging science and spirituality, Fuller makes the convincing case that a sense of wonder is a principal source of humanity's belief in the existence of an unseen order of life. Like no other emotion, he argues, wonder prompts us to pause, admire, and open our hearts and minds. Chapters examining emotions in evolutionary biology and the importance of wonder in human cognitive development alternate with chapters on John Muir, William James, and Rachel Carson, whom Fuller identifies as "exemplars of wonder." The writings and lives of these individuals express a functional side of emotion: that the very survival of life on earth today may depend on the empathy, compassion, and care that are aroused by a sense of wonder.
About the Author
Robert C. Fuller is Caterpillar Professor of Religious Studies at Bradley University and author of ten books, including Religious Revolutionaries: The Rebels Who Reshaped American Religion and Spiritual, But Not Religious: Understanding Unchurched America.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Emotion and Evolution
Chapter 3. A Life Shaped by Wonder: John Muir
Chapter 4. Adaptation and Humanity's Appetite for Wonder
Chapter 5. A Life Shaped by Wonder: William James
Chapter 6. Wonder and Psychological Development
Chapter 7. A Life Shaped by Wonder: Rachel Carson
Chapter 8. Experience and Personal Transformation
Chapter 9. Wonder, Emotion, and the Religious Sensibility
Suggestions for Further Reading
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