Karl Marx took religion so seriously that he wanted human consciousness rid of it. One way to expose religion's illusory character, he believed, was to "bring your gods to a land where other gods prevail." Then, Marx claimed, "everybody will laugh at your subjective imagination."
Very differently, Vernon Ruland also takes religion seriously: He wants it to expand our awareness. Urging people to bring their customary religious practices into contact with horizons where unfamiliar ways prevail, his book encourages not the mocking laughter of disillusioned secularity but the liberating joy of spiritual enlightenment.
Priest and poet, counselor as well as scholar, the author studied under Mircea Eliade at the University of Chicago and now teaches world religions and psychology of religion at the University of San Francisco. "Eight Sacred Horizons" originated from his experiences with inquiring students. Ruland accurately insists, however, that "it is not a factual encyclopedic textbook, nor an apologia blueprint for interfaith dialogue." Instead, the author wants to say "how it feels in the pulse" to appreciate diverse spiritual quests and to discern their essential unity.
While traditional faiths--Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Islamic--figure prominently in Ruland's comparative explorations, they receive unconventional treatment. This book is full of surprises. Its fascinating essay on "Chinese-Japanese Tao," for example, draws from contemporary film and fiction to illustrate the wisdom of Confucius, Lao-tzu, and ancient Shinto legend. Arguably the most novel chapter, "Humanist Rights," construes Bertrand Russell, Sigmund Freud and John Dewey not simply as critics of religion but as spiritual guides who shared much with the best expressions of the religious imagination East and West.