by Alan Race
from Signs of the Times No. 69 - Apr 2018

The subtitle ‘a little book of connection’ is misleading. Although the text is a manageable 66 pages, its thought-world is big.

If you are prone to anxiety in the face of what seems like the world’s many-layered fragmentations, this will supply balm for your fears, raise your sights and provide some spiritual succour.
There are attractive summary sentences that beam out on almost every page, such is the author’s evocative style. Here’s one that made me sit up, on p.59:

When you understand it, when you really understand it, not just in your intellect, but in the bones of your being, that there is no separation between you and absolutely everything, which includes the divine, then the game changes.

That was cited from fellow author Christopher Goodchild, but the invitation within it to imagine yourself and the world differently echoes perfectly the author’s sentiment. Making a difference in the world begins by seeing aright.

Kavanagh is a Quaker, and every page is saturated with the familiar belief that there is that of God (Spirit, Life-force, Energy) in everyone and every being. Not that we are always aware of it or even act upon it, but once experienced and grasped its magnetism opens us up to the ‘heart of oneness’ as in the book’s title. Kavanagh does not say so, but the intuition of oneness has its analogues in all the major religions of the world - for example, in Judaism’s image of God in everyone, in Mahayana Buddhism’s Buddha-nature in all beings, in Hinduism’s affirmation of the eternal atman as the being and power of Brahman in all of us. God, she says, is the immanent

unifying and connecting principle between and within all creation... God as relationship’ (p. 58).

For Kavanagh, the ‘many’ really does stem from the ‘one’. This is not something that is open to proof, of course, but it can be traced, she holds, in the best of scientific endeavour, in the desire for social and political justice, in contemplation of nature’s marvels, including our relationship with animals from which / whom we should learn, and in the mystical traditions of the world’s great religions. Again, we need to train our eyes, hearts and minds to see.

This is a book for sitting with, as it stimulates spirituality’s taste-buds afresh. While Kavanagh delights in a world that teems with multiplicity and variety she remains resolutely against the academic fashion for ‘othering’. Given the book’s Quaker inspiration, we should not be surprised at the book’s appeal to universality and oneness as more foundational, to mutuality and shared responsibility for one another and society, to the leaping over of walls, imagined or real, and all for the sake of uncovering the givenness of ‘connection’.

In this sense, the book is a welcome antidote to postmodernism’s fixation on difference, incommensurability and relativist dystopia. As I said, a little book with a big message.

Alan Race is the Chair of Trustees of Modern Church. He enjoys researching Christian responses to religious pluralism.