Sunday, 23 June 2013

Book Review: God Speaking

Before I even start this review I think it's only fair to say that not only do I know the author, I consider her a good friend and someone whose intelligence and wisdom I respect and look up to greatly. So while I will aim to make this review as honest and objective as I always try to, I think it's only fair to be up front about any possible biases.

God Speaking
Judith O'Grady

This is a difficult book to describe in some ways because for all that it's pretty short – it's 52 pages all told – it packs an awful lot in and I don't want to do any of it a disservice. In general, this is a book about the intersection between ecology and religion, arguing that being environmentally aware isn't enough; that is, if we are to have a future on this planet then the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) will only get us so far. So we need another R: Religion. In particular, we need to listen to the gods, or listen to those who are God Bothered, as it were, and this is where the title comes in. If we want to be mindful of what the gods want from us then we need to be sure that we're getting the right messages; not wishful thinking from our subconscious or outright lies.

The title perhaps has a double meaning, though, because as much as it deals with this subject matter, it's also a book that has come about as a direct result of the author's own experiences with "God Speaking." Due to the length of the book it has more the feel of an essay in a way (a fairly long one, with chapters), and there's a very conversational tone to it – along with a good dose of self-deprecating humour – that makes it an engaging read. The author assumes a degree of knowledge that means it's maybe not geared towards an absolute beginner as far as things pagan goes, and while there's a healthy smattering of examples from Irish myth and lore to illustrate certain points, there's also a good balance of other examples that I think will give a wider appeal to those who aren't especially rooted in Irish or Celtic practices.

Although I couldn't say I'm particularly well read when it comes to books aimed at pagans these days, this is a book that strikes me as being genuinely unusual – both in the over all message and the strands that are brought together to make the point (philosophy, science, as well as spiritual bits, that is). In explaining how God Speaking works for the author, and what the pitfalls may be once you get into the finer details of the matter, you really get into a discussion that I don't think you find anywhere else. I think it's a really important discussion to have even if you're not gifted – or don't think you are – because so many people set themselves up as mouthpieces these days, when really they're just spouting wishful thinking or outright lying for attention (consciously or not).

The good thing about it all is that the author always makes it clear that this is just her point of view, opinion or experience, and whether you agree or disagree, it's a thought-provoking ride. There are lots of philosophical tangents you can go off on as you read, and spend some time chewing on a sentence here or there before carrying on with the text. That makes it feel like this could or should have been a much larger book. In some ways I think it should be (or perhaps more to the point wish it were so) and I think a lot of people might think that. But at the same time I think it's a book that's exactly as it should be, because if it were longer then the over all message might become somewhat diffuse and lost in the details. Those details are perhaps for another book. Whatever the case, I hope there is another one, at least.