God’s Away on Business: The Spiritual Significance of Voluntary Simplicity

Economic growth is the secular religion of advancing industrial nations. – Daniel Bell 

In December 2009 I addressed the Parliament of the World’s Religions on the subject of the spiritual significance of voluntary simplicity. I would never hold myself out as an authority on this matter, I hasten to add – it seems to me a rather too personal subject for there to be ‘experts,’ as such. But when I was invited to speak I thought it were only proper to speak my mind. I sent some of you a transcript of my address at the time, however recently I was invited to submit an essay for journal the Earthsong (Spring edition), so I decided to rework my address into a short essay. I have posted the essay below. It isn’t a religious essay so much as it is an exploratory essay, one that wrestles with the notion of ‘spirit’ without really drawing any conclusions. That said, I do present an argument. Take it for what it is – simply an invitation to reflect.

God’s Away on Business: The Spiritual Significance of Voluntary Simplicity (Earthsong Website)

God’s Away On Business: The Spiritual Significance of Voluntary Simplicity (PDF)


2 Responses to “God’s Away on Business: The Spiritual Significance of Voluntary Simplicity”

  1. sgl says:

    not related to this specific post, but tangentially related to your overall posts…

    have you heard of john michael greer, author of ?

    “John Michael Greer is the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America and the author of more than twenty books on a wide range of subjects, including The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age, The Ecotechnic Future: Exploring a Post-Peak World, and the forthcoming The Wealth of Nature: Economics As If Survival Mattered.”

    his writing is more about peak oil than climate change. but he also talks about what is likely/possible in the future, similar to your looking backwards/ecozoic essay. and while he doesn’t talk about voluntary simplicity, he talks about becoming more self-sufficient and lower-energy in response to his view of likely changes in society due to too much complexity.

    he also has various references to american/western “myths” in various posts, and argues that the american religion is not christianity, but “progress”.

    so, while i doubt you’ll agree with him entirely, and you’re not talking about exactly the same things, or using the same terms, i suspect you’ll find some overlap, and some stimulation for your own thoughts.

    also, if you’re involved in the activist community, you might find the following essay interesting:


    Getting Beyond The Narratives: An Open Letter to the Activist Community, by John Michael Greer

    i hope you don’t let the unusual druid terminology in the one essay dissuade you from reading it, as i think it is a very thought-provoking perspective. (in his blog, he rarely makes much reference to his druidry religious views, but the activist essay uses it extensively.)


  2. Samuel Alexander says:

    Thanks sgl – yes, I know of Greer – I’ve read Ecotechnic Future which I enjoyed very much and have just started reading his “Long Descent.” He writes beautifully and I’m sympathetic with much he has to say. I haven’t read any of his Druid stuff, but his oil stuff is great. Thanks for the link – I’ll take a look. Cheers, SA.

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