Nathan KOLLAR. Spiritualities Past, Present, and Future. An Introduction. North Charleston, SC: Createspace, 2012. Pp. xi + 387. $27.97pb. ISBN 978-1478320326. Reviewed by Daniel DI DOMIZIO, Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, WI 53217

“This book,” writes Nathan Kollar in the Introduction (p. vi) “will help you understand what spirituality is, and it will inform you of the various spiritualities available to you.” The goal of this book is both simple and at the same time very ambitious. And, as the reader turns the last page of the book, he/she realizes that Kollar has accomplished precisely what he proposed some 335 pages earlier.

Part One of the text is a lengthy phenomenology of religious experience, including insightful definitions and descriptions of spirituality. In narrative form Kollar leads the reader through life experiences that open persons to the emerging awareness of the spiritual dimension of life.  Such an awareness, the author contends, is a treasure available to all human beings. Indeed this section might well stand alone as an effective introduction to religious experience.

Kollar in Part Two journeys with the reader through the spiritualities of the major world religions east and west. Unlike many treatments of world religions, Spiritualities explores these spiritual journeys as an adherent of the religion might do. Kollar offers no complex descriptions of tenets and doctrines of the religions treated. The reader is invited to walk with believers as they attempt to integrate their daily lives according to the unique spiritual insights of their chosen religious tradition. We are able to explore various world religions from the inside out.

Part Three is the longest section and is entitled “Liminal spiritualites: spiritual offerings in a time of radical change.” This section is unique among texts of this genre. The author describes a vast array of the spiritualities that have surfaced in the past forty years. Without taking the reader through many pages of details, Kollar is able to convey a sense of the historical and cultural background of each of the traditions and spiritual practices. He reveals in this section a keen insight regarding the cultural/historical background of all spiritualities.  Kollar demonstrates a deep respect for the spiritualities he treats in this section, no matter how marginal they may seem in the popular mind.

In Part Four the author interfaces contemporary religious traditions, their cultural matrices  and the human search for meaning  as men and women confront the compelling  human issues of death, the afterlife and suffering. His treatment of suffering and its role in the spiritual journey is particularly insightful. These ultimate issues, according to the author, are the touchstone to determine the maturity of a spiritual life.

Kollar’s research is most impressive. He is able to demonstrate how the unique characteristics of each tradition find expression in the lives of flesh and blood women and men. This book has a depth that only comes from years of observation and reflection on the human spiritual endeavor...

Kollar’s writing is crisp and clear, and at times it takes on a personal flavor.  The book contains an appendix containing helpful suggestions about the “Dos and Don’ts of spiritual listening.” A Glossary facilitates the reading for the less experienced.  

There is a simplicity about the writing without it being superficial. Spiritualities is a worthwhile read for both beginners and those more versed in spirituality. The text would be very useful for a course in the spirituality of the world religions that would invite students to find their way in the vast panorama of the life of the Spirit.