How to Be an Adult in Faith and Spirituality, by David Richo. Paulist Press (Mahwah, N.J., 2011). 176 pp., $16.95.

This reviewer has read a lot of books on spirituality, but one of the best is How to Be an Adult in Faith and Spirituality, by David Richo. Richo, a psychotherapist and teacher who combines Jungian, transpersonal and mythic perspectives in his work, presents a book whose pages are to be read, re-read and pondered.

In the introduction to the book, the reader gets a taste of Richo’s style. He writes, “A healthy religion with maturely held beliefs, wise moral values, relevant rituals and heartfelt devotion can contribute to adult spirituality.” He identifies these — “belief, morality, ritual, devotion” — as the four components of religion which “turn out to be the drivers of spirituality.”

For Richo, religion “refers to a natural inclination and intention in human experience that recognizes a transcendent force in the universe.” He distinguishes between a facilitating religion that helps faith and spirituality grow to their full potential and a dominating religion that is overly institutionalized and focuses on its own survival and advancement.

Preferring a facilitating religion, Richo writes that it opens people “to new ways of being human in the context of a historical tradition.” Faith, then, is a response “to the unique riches that religion has gathered over the centuries.”

It is common knowledge that, today, real adult maturity is a rare thing. Young men and women are not reaching adulthood until their late 20s, if then. Many 40- and 50-year olds have the maturity level of 16-year-olds 50 years ago. This can easily be seen in the childish behavior of leaving one parish and going to another because of a dislike or disagreement with a bishop or priest or parish council decision. Decisions are based on emotions, which are not tempered with reason.

Richo focuses on human wholeness that fosters adult faith. “Faith for an adult,” he writes, “can be placed only where religion, spirituality, sanity and health are all in agreement.” Later, he adds, “Faith is always about opening.”

In Chapter 1, “Healthy Self, Healthy Beliefs,” he reviews what he names as the four prevalent views about religion today. The parochial/fundamentalist view, the reductionist view, the archetypal/integral view and the cosmic/universal view.

Chapter 2 provides an answer to the question, “What Is Religion?” After explaining what it ought to be, Richo writes: “Religion in America is often feel-good rather than life-changing. Religion, not God as love, is then the object of belief.”

Chapter 3 answers the question, “What About Spirituality?” The author states that spirituality is experiential and unique to each individual. The ego often gets in the way of spiritual growth. “Making our ego healthier happens by psychological work,” states Richo. “Growing in spiritual consciousness happens by spiritual practices.”

“Faith means belief or trust in something that, or someone who, transcends us,” states Richo in Chapter 4, which answers the question, “What Is Faith?” He explains faith in the context of each of the four components of faith listed above. Then he adds these wise words: “The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty. When we are sure, we cancel the need for faith. Adult faith is certainty that there is not certainty.”

Chapter 5, “Practicing Adult Faith,” explores what an adult faith is. Richo examines this in the context of accepting life’s givens, being open to many traditions, appreciation of metaphor, understanding prayer, pondering the afterlife and more.

“What is Meant by God?” is answered in Chapter 6. He proposes that “God is not the wholly other but the wholeness of no-other.” In this chapter, Richo presents various ways of describing the divine, including transcendent, immanent, mystical and more. TP 

Father Boyer, a priest for 37 years, is the author of 33 books primarily in the areas of biblical and liturgical spirituality as well as numerous articles in various magazines, including The Priest, for which he wrote Homily Backgrounds 1987-1993. He teaches in the Religious Studies Department of Missouri State University, Springfield, Mo.