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Universal Spirit

The Seasons of the Christian Year in the Company of Northrop Frye

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Woodlake Books
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To a church that increasingly addresses itself to biblically illiterate people, to people who may have little or no church experience, and to those who simply call themselves spiritual-but-not-religious, Don Collett’s look at the Christian year inspired by the work of the great Canadian scholar Northrop Frye offers a priceless gift.

“Frye conceived of a world beyond the normal confines of Christian doctrine and theology,” writes Collett, “and then found a place for Christian doctrine and theology to provide the hope this world needs.” This movement, says Collett, allows us to “begin conversations that seem wholly secular” – conversations that happen in “language” most familiar to people today, both inside and outside the church – “and arrive at the vocabulary of the spiritual life.”

While the seasons of the Christian year – Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost – may seem arcane to many, Collett uses this method of structuring the year as a way to draw forth insights into what he calls the Universal Spirit, spiritual truths which may be applied in the course of a person’s everyday life. “There is a comprehensive way for living a human life that both Northrop Frye and I see flowing from the biblical tradition unconstrained by the weight of orthodox theology. Just as Michelangelo said he found Moses in a block of Carrera marble, so in biblical myth we find a universality that provides meaning in the course of human life and action. It seems a vastly rich and fertile place to survey the human landscape and to find the Universal Spirit’s place within it.”

Universal Spirit is not a systematic treatment of the work of Frye. Sometimes Frye provides the centre for Collett’s meditations, at other times Frye provides a jumping off point. “I think of them as a survey of my spiritual passion with the aid, at times, of the spiritual passion of another kindred spirit, similar to how jazz musicians riff off one another in performance. 

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