12 Best Reverence Books

Albert Schweitzer wrote a ground-breaking book about the philosophy of "reverence for life" in the 1920s. Paul Woodruff's book Reverence, published in 2002, called for a renewal of this virtue. We're happy to report that reverence and the experience of awe that gives rise to it are the focus of more books these days. Here are our selections of the best of them.

Abraham Joshua Heschel: Essential Writings by Abraham Joshua Heschel is edited by Susannah Heschel. Rabbi Heschel believed that the presence of God is everywhere so "if you want to know God, sharpen your sense of the human." Such an understanding gives rise to reverence. Heschel was very interested in the links between wonder and awe evident in faith, prayer, and dissent.

Albert Schweitzer: Essential Writings, selected with an introduction by James Brabazon, brings together the writings of this theologian, doctor, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and musician. He chose a path of service by becoming a missionary doctor in Africa where he applied his Reverence for Life philosophy.

Awakening to Awe: Personal Stories of Profound Transformation by Kirk J. Schneider presents the personal stories of people who have had an awe-based awakening. The author shares conditions favorable and unfavorable to transformative change. He also gives examples of awe in education, aging, and everyday life.

Awe: The Delights and Dangers of Our Eleventh Emotion by Paul Pearsall celebrates this emotion that brings us to a deeper reverence for the mysteries of human nature, the natural world, and things. He presents 14 questions designed to get at the heart of awe and identifies eight common characteristics of every report of awe.

The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human by Matthew Fox offers a spirited vision of education fueled by respect for ancestors, a multipurpose use of awe, and a curriculum based on the 10 Cs which include compassion, contemplation, creativity, and cosmology.

In the Absence of God: Dwelling in the Presence of the Sacred by Sam Keen challenges us to craft a new religious life based on 14 elemental emotions. One is awe, where we tremble before the overwhelming creative-destructive power of the cosmos, and another is reverence, where we listen respectfully to the myriad voices of the commonwealth of sentient beings.

A Private History of Awe by Scott Russell Sanders is at once a coming-of-age memoir, love story, and spiritual testament. The author recounts occasions when he was awed by nature, encounters with death, the wonders of science, the beauty of the Bible, place, literature, and family legacies.

Rediscovering Reverence: The Meaning of Faith in a Secular World by Ralph Heintzman is a philosophical tome in which the author uses the word reverence to name a family of virtues associated with our connectedness to community, culture, nation, and humanity as a whole. He believes it can lead to changed behavior especially in relationship to the planet.

Rediscovery of Awe: Splendor, Mystery, and the Fluid Center of Life by Kirk L. Schneider spells out an awe-based curriculum emphasizing liberation, mystery, humility, and wonder. The author's humanistic psychology makes the most of appreciation, recognizes life's paradoxes, and joy.

Respect: An Exploration by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot pays tribute to this many-splendored faculty which is so essential to the practice of reverence. Through profiles of a variety of people, she explores six aspects of respect: empowerment, healing, dialogue, curiosity, self-respect, and attention.

Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue by Paul Woodruff is the pre-eminent and most thought-provoking and soul-stirring book on this spiritual practice. He urges us to respect the rights of others, to cherish the awe in beauty, to pay more attention to politics, and to honor the imponderables in life.

What Does It Mean to be Human: Reverence for Life Reaffirmed by Responses from Around the World edited by Frederick Franck, Janis Roze, and Richard Connolly reveals answers to this key question from spiritual teachers and leaders from around the world along with their shock at "irreverence" making itself known in the growing contempt for life that can be seen in war, poverty, human rights violations, capital punishment, slavery, and the trashing of the environment.

Other Recommended Resources

These books while covering other subjects identify the important role of reverence in social interactions, spiritual maturity, science and psychology, eco-spirituality, aweism, and more.

All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity by Robert W. Fuller addresses the ways in which radical respect can be reactivated to create a "dignitarian society" where interpersonal, cultural, and institutional relations provide recognition and dignity for all.

The Alphabet of Paradise: An A-Z of Spirituality for Everyday Life by Howard Cooper does a fine job meditating on awe and wonder as huge contributors to "the beauty of the narrative of life on earth."

An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor contains a meaning-laden chapter in which she discusses reverence as the practice of paying attention.

Awe-Filled Wonder: The Interface of Science and Spirituality by Barbara Fiand treats us to a view of the universe as abiding in beauty and surprise and definitely worthy of awe and wonder.

Born To Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life by Dacher Keltner, a psychologist, sums up the positive values of emotions and then assesses eight of them including awe with its powers to unite us all.

Climbing Jacob's Ladder: One Man's Journey to Rediscover a Jewish Spiritual Tradition by Alan Morinis probes the meaning of awe in the Mussar tradition of Judaism.

Dignity for All: How to Create a World Without Rankism by Robert W. Fuller with Pamela A. Gerloff explores some concrete tools and present a variety of approaches for countering rankism and affirming dignity.

Earth, Sky, Gods and Mortals: Developing an Ecological Spirituality by Jay B. McDaniel makes the point that an inclusive appreciation of the web of life leads to a reverence for life.

Eco-Spirituality: Toward a Reverent Life by Charles Cummings challenges us to be at home in our earth house, be faithful caregivers of the planet, and walk the path of reverence leading to a kinship with all living beings.

Emotional Intimacy: A Comprehensive Guide for Connecting with the Power of Your Emotions by Robert Augustus Masters has a section in which the author talks about awe as "the full-blooded intuition of innate Mystery."

God's Dictionary: Divine Definitions for Everyday Enlightenment by Susan Corso mines the roots of the word "respect" and then ponders the term "disrespect" and what it entails.

A Haunting Reverence: Meditations on a Northern Land by Kent Nerburn demonstrates the poetics of place and the awe that can see snow as "a prayer shawl, donned upon the land."

Like a Child: Restoring the Awe, Wonder, Joy & Resiliency of the Human Spirit by Timothy J. Mooney gives counsel to parents who want to exercise their child's capacity for awe and wonder.

Living the Secular Life by Phil Zuckerman outlines "Aweism," with ample illustrations of the many ways in which secularists savor the same elation, exhilaration, and goose-bumps of awesome experiences that believers in God relish.

Moving Through Fear: Cultivating the Seven Spiritual Instincts for a Fearless Life by Jeff Golliher identifies awe as "a homing signal" that turns us toward the sacred.

The Nine Intense Experiences by Brian Vasily explores the adventures that might come your way as you practice reverence.

Nourishing the Spirit: The Healing Emotions of Wonder, Joy, Compassion and Hope by James D. Whitehead and Evelyn Whitehead covers the religious emotion of awe and the practice of reverence with ease and skill.

Of God and Pelicans: A Theology of Reverence for Life by Jay B. McDaniel affirms the importance of reverential respect in process theology's perspectives on nature and animals.

Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3-to-1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life by Barbara Fredrickson places the emotion of awe as one of her "10 Forms of Positivity," which is why she suggests keeping an awe portfolio.

A Sacred Place to Dwell: Living with Reverence Upon the Earth by Henryk Skolimowski describes a bold and visionary ecological spirituality that is based on "reverential thinking." He suggests we revel in the quintessential unity of all things and reverence the world as a sanctuary.

Seeking the Sacred: Transforming Our View of Ourselves and Others by Stephanie Dowrick describes how the quest for the sacred connects us effortlessly to all living beings. In a chapter on "Reverence," she refers to Huston Smith's definition of this spiritual practice as catching "chinks of a world beyond."

Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank by Robert W. Fuller is a watershed work on the assaults on dignity taking place every day in a thousand ways due to irreverence and disrespect.

Spiritual Maturity: Stories and Reflections for the Ongoing Journey of the Spirit by Joseph Sharp encourages us to "reclaim the largeness of God's ineffability -- to reclaim our own personal sense of awe."

Stories of Awe & Abundance by Jose Hobday approaches awe through the Native American and storytelling traditions.

Writing to Wake the Soul: Opening the Sacred Conversation Within by Karen Hering shares tips for contemplative writing using reverence as the lens for seeing the world as brimming with holiness.

More books on the spiritual practice of reverence.