There are conflicting definitions of what a religion is, and what it consists of, or even if one can constrain the array of practices, beliefs and so on within a single concept labeled "religion." I will not address that.
But what most agree on is that a religion at a minimum is composed of 1) a set of beliefs about it's own history and its worldview, 2) a set of practices and 3) a defined social structure or organization that observes and promotes those beliefs and practices.
There have been countless books in mass and academic publications on Stoicism, to the point where it has become cliche. We need only wait for the eventual "The Stoic 12 Week Weight Shedding Plan" or "The Stoic Guide to Hedonistic Happiness and Power" to know we have reached bottom.
That said, there are several very high quality books on the belief system of the Stoics as well as the colorful unverifiable stories of Stoic sages and forerunners of the Stoics, each with a unique and colorful perceptual lens that brings valuable perspective to understanding the belief system. So the beliefs and mythological stories are well-documented at this point.
This book fills the second component of religion: practices. There are many kinds of practices available. From rituals, sacrifices, sermons and so on, but in the Western tradition, the set of practices this book offers would be termed "the disciplines;" private, difficult exercises geared toward building greater faith, resiliency, and character improvement.
Some of the 52 exercises seem to be different only in minor ways, such that it seemed like they needed some fillers and extended a given exercise to a more narrow application. Case in point: Week 15: Remind yourself of impermanence and Week 39: Keep basic Stoic concepts ever at mind.
But that is a minor point, because even the authors concede that ultimately you, the adherent, must make a set of exercises your own, and they welcome and explicitly address devising and customizing ones own exercises at the end of the book. It is the spirit of the effort here that matters, not minor flaws or weaknesses. The book is not codified doctrine, but a guidepost offering examples upon which to springboard.
Returning to the point of religion, many are abandoning religion and superstition in droves. But the human mind yearns for meaning, structure/order and community.
Two of the three components to form a religion of Stoicism are now available for the earnest adherent. Rituals and art would fully round out the component of "practices" once and for all. I would find such a spinoff fascinating, especially if crowdsourced with imaginative ideas.
That leaves an organization/religious body as the last pillar.
The highly individualistic Stoic online practitioners scoff at such a thought (having observed the forums address the topic of a "church") But it will come, as soon as day follows night. Because there is a desperate need for it, and no good alternatives to the mythological religions exists that is as robust as this one. Those individualists will need to learn that binding oneself to a community of fellow adherents, and meeting the pesky obligations it encumbers one with is one of the hardest disciplines to master in a religion. Stoicism is no different. It requires the most self-sacrifice and humility, which is the Achilles heel of the modern community. But this offering moves us one step closer to that future, Fate willing. Keep the faith.
- Flexibound: 327 pages
- Publisher: Experiment Llc (14 May 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1615195335
- ISBN-13: 978-1615195336
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 522 g
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- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)