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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Book review for " Harmony" by HRH Prince Charles with Tony Juniper and Ian Skelly

As I noted on Dec 27th I received a copy of this new book which I have started to read in my spare time so it may take me some time. In the meantime I am posting a review of the book which I think is a good introduction to its central theme of sustainability and encourages me to continue. I hope to add my own comments in due course:

Harmony is the title of a new book by the Prince of Wales, and also the condition that he believes is missing from much of the modern world.
The book is his attempt to set out his vision of the world as it was, as it is, and as it could be. His argument is that previous generations had a spiritual connection with the natural world around them. The scientific and industrial revolutions that have transformed Western societies over the past 400 years have caused us to lose that connection and replace it with a limited, mechanical view of the world. The result is a broken, fragmented culture that has lost it's way and is inflicting great harm on itself and on nature.
The book was written in conjunction with Tony Juniper and Ian Skelly and the sheer volume of diverse subjects can be almost overwhelming at times. It covers thousands of years and many issues affecting people on every continent, many of which are likely to be familiar from the media controversies that have followed the Prince in recent times. From modern architecture to intensive farming practices, it makes a convincing case that this internal shift in the way we think has led to massive damage in the outside world. There is a look at philosophy from the Ancient Greeks to the Islamic world and to indigenous peoples in many countries. There are also many examples of projects around the world that are seeking to put right some of this damage and these are accompanied by many beautiful, colour photographs.
Often these examples are taken from projects that the Prince has either set up himself or supported in some way. While not wanting to take anything away from this valuable work it does appear that nothing good  happens without the Prince being involved in some way. The impression is that the book is at least partly an advertisement for the Prince that seems to be at odds with the spiritual message of freedom from the ego that he wishes to promote.
The book closes by suggesting that the changes required to cope with the damage being done to the natural world require a fundamental shift in the way we think about ourselves in relationship to the world around us. It suggests that only by living in harmony with the natural world can we save ourselves from catastrophe. It is unlikely to convince many of the Prince's critics but it would make a good investment for anyone looking for a whirlwind guide to 2000 years of philosophy and spiritual insights.

Paul German

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