"The aim of this book is to expand the imagination, to experience at close range what it means to live and wonder and pray from within a religious tradition other than one's own. As the snug neighborhood anywhere broadens into a global village, its skyline will be dotted with a richer montage of church spires, mosques, synagogues, and temples. I yearn for the moment when a religious stranger no longer surfaces as the feared and hated other, but someone to befriend on a common pilgrimage." So begins Vernon Ruland, a Jesuit who teaches world religions at the University of San Francisco, in this wide-ranging and richly realized paperback.
The author examines eight religious ways which he defines as "whatever explicit or partially conscious drive, credo or value system lies at the root of behavior marked by awe, commitment, ecstasy, and moral seriousness." The paths covered are primal religions, Taoism, Confucianism, Shintoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and humanism. In Hinduism, for example, Ruland examines the insights of Mahatma Gandhi, two modern religious movements, and the guru-disciple relationship. In his overview of primal religions, he comments on the rites of hunt and pilgrimage, shamanic guidance, gift-exchange, and mask transformation. The author's knowledge of fictional works relating to these religions is impressive, as is his breadth of cross-cultural insights.