John Philip Newell has a mission. He sees the brokenness of humanity, the division between nations, and the destruction of Creation and realizes that something must be done. Newell’s solution, however, is not something new but something very old. He calls us back to a time of oneness—a reuniting of the spirit, and the earth and the human soul. In A New Harmony, Newell is actually presenting the case for an ancient harmony that underlies our world. He argues that there are certain underlying principles of unity that we have rejected but can learn to embrace in order to overcome our brokenness.
After presenting the case for this ancient harmony, Newell discusses how harmony has been broken and then provides a challenge to rediscover and practice that ancient harmony again. In his concluding paragraph, he writes:
“The Spirit is doing a new thing. It is springing forth now in our consciousness, among every people, in every discipline, in every walk of life. Do we see it? And shall we serve it? A new Pentecost is stirring in the human soul. Will we be open to this moment of grace and be led into relationship of oneness we could never have imagined?”
Newell is an interesting and articulate writer. He refers to the works of psychoanalyst Carl Jung, theologians Teilhard de Chardin and Matthew Fox, spiritual mystics Julian of Norwich and Meister Eckhart and others to explain and amplify on his ideas. His personal experiences as Anglican clergyman and campus chaplain, warden of Iona Abbey, pilgrim in India, and now theologian in residence at Casa de Sol in New Mexico are woven into the presentation as well.
Some will find his arguments disconcerting and even heretical, but he fearlessly addresses the need to make right a damaged world. All of us struggle with brokenness of one type or another. Newell has faced his own, is attempting to deal with it, and shares what he is learning.
I read this book while participating in a virtual seminar offered by The Oates Institute. Facilitated by executive director Chris Hammon, the online discussion involved 15 participants from across the country who are involved in various helping ministries. Information on the Institute, its services, and future offerings can be found at www.oates.org.