The first biography of its kind about Desmond Tutu (with a foreword by the Dalai Lama and an afterword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu himself), this book, introduces readers to Tutu’s spiritual life, his prayer life and his spiritual practices and examines how it shaped his commitment to restorative justice and reconciliation. It also shows how a living legend’s life can guide us during these times.
Desmond Tutu was a pivotal leader of the anti-apartheid movement
in South Africa and remains a beloved and important emblem of peace and justice around the world. Even those who do not know the major events of Tutu’s life—receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, serving as the first black archbishop of Cape Town and primate of Southern Africa from 1986−1996, and chairing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 1995−1998—recognize him as a charismatic political and religious leader who helped lay the foundations for a country ravaged by dehumanizing policies and practices by those who called themselves “Christian”. This book shows how the inner landscape of Tutu’s spirituality, the mystical grounding that spurred his outward accomplishments, often goes unseen.
Rather than recount his entire life story, this book explores Tutu’s spiritual life and contemplative practices—particularly Tutu’s understanding of Ubuntu theology, which emphasizes finding one’s identity and wholeness in community—and traces the powerful role they played in subverting the theological and spiritual underpinnings of colonialism and apartheid. Michael Battle’s personal relationship with Tutu grants readers an inside view of how Tutu’s spiritual agency cast a vision that both upheld the demands of justice and created a space of grace to synthesize the stark differences of a diverse society and help South Africans build a new community, new “samehorigheid”, and “Ubuntu”.
- Written by an author who has a long-standing personal and professional relationship with Tutu
- Explores Tutu’s spiritual life and contemplative practices rather than his entire life story
- Provides insights into how religion can be used to make peace in a twenty-first-century world
Michael Battle is an Anglican priest, Herbert Thompson Professor of Church and Society and Director of the Desmond Tutu Center at General Theological Seminary in New York, and President and CEO of the PeaceBattle Institute
Michael Battle is undoubtedly right: you cannot possibly understand the life and legacy of the Arch unless you recognize the vitality of his spiritual life. Of course, we need the biographical details if we want to know who he is from the outside — his background and his achievements. But if you fail to appreciate the journey of his soul, what makes Tutu “tick”, and therefore makes him the warm, compassionate fighter for justice we all know, then we will never grasp who he really is. Battle knows this because he understands that inner journey and has the personal resources to explore and share it with us. The result, for which we must all be grateful, is an insiders’ account of one of the greatest spirit-filled human beings of our time.—Prof John de Gruchy, Extra-ordinary Professor of Theology, Stellenbosch University
“In this remarkable account of the Arch’s life, Michael Battle shifts the paradigm of biographical research about Desmond Tutu beyond the popular trope of ‘political priest.’ Through a careful filtering of his life through the three stages of mysticism – purgation, illumination and union, Battle makes a convincing case that Tutu’s political actions for justice were not in spite of his deep spirituality, but because of it. This ethnographic spiritual biography shatters the false binaries between the sacred and the secular and between spiritual contemplation and social action thus inviting us to the warm embrace of a more authentic spirituality. ” —Prof Sarojini Nadar, Desmond Tutu Research Chair in Religion & Social Justice, University of the Western Cape
“Michael prepared a table for us to feast on Desmond Tutu’s and God’s intimacy with each other and the expression of this relationship in Tutu’s lived experience and leadership in South Africa and the world. This book is a powerful resource for spiritual directors and contemplatives who desire a spirituality that liberates people, communities and the world from oppression, especially racism. We need rootedness in spiritual practices that are simultaneously woven in God’s love for us, God’s image of the world, woven in contemplation, the prophetic, love and healing for ourselves and transformative justice. This book helps us get there!” – Althea Banda-Hansmann, Spiritual Director, Transformation Coach, Facilitator and Consultant