Theodore Orenstein’s new book is compelling, interesting, and appropriately evangelist. There’s this distinctive sense he is a true believer in what he’s preaching, which is an amalgam of different faiths he has compiled into something working best for him. Orenstein could come across as something of a spiritualistic guru, or at worst some sort of new religious leader. But his book is objective enough, and earnest enough about his hard-earned faith, that he steers clear from potential, unintentionally harmful rhetoric that could prove isolating and somewhat fundamentalist.


“This is not meant to be a scholarly, academic work and I have tried to make this teaching as down to earth as possible. It is important to me that this book touch the souls of the widest possible array of people, therefore I have included wisdom from many diverse viewpoints and cultures. You will see principles and quotes from many different traditions and beliefs, including, among others, those that are Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Tao, and even those from atheists and humanists,” writes Mr. Orenstein, within the pages of the christened Awaken Your Soul: How to Find Your Inner Spirit and Life’s Purpose. “…I refused to use the word God while I was in the midst of enlightenment…I felt that in sharing my experience with others, I did not want to trigger their preconceived assumptions and opinions.

The word God has separated people from one another for too long. Nonbelievers will close their minds as soon as they hear the word. For some believers there is only their concept of God, and only their way of finding God. Those who don’t believe the same way are thought to be heretical, evil, or doomed. Therefore, I was originally not going to use the word God at all in this teaching. I did not want your preconceptions to cloud, or interfere with, your openness to the ideas I will share. It’s funny how words get in the way when people are trying to communicate. People think they disagree with one another merely because they have different definitions of the same word. In this book I am going to try to show you how to get beyond words, and connect directly with your true spirit and that of others.”


It’s this kind of pantheistic approach that drew me in closer to what Mr. Orenstein writes about. There’s never the sense he is actively trying to preach or indoctrinate you. Rather, if you’re open to what he is presenting to you, there are interesting, unapologetically evangelical, and holistic arguments for belief in a higher power of Mr. Orenstein’s interpretation. It’s never Join or Die, or the threat of some sort of spiritual consequence if one does not sign on to Mr. Orenstein’s interpretation. If anything, Mr. Orenstein appears to eschew the traditional fearmongering many organized religious institutions have instilled over the years. Such fearmongering clouds a direct connection to God, he essentially argues. What Orenstein seems determined to do is rid the politics of religion, and reconnect us to the source.

Garth Thomas