Soulful Spirituality

Becoming Fully Alive and Deeply Human

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"Someone needed to write this book and I'm glad it was David Benner. His wise, incisive, and winsome style makes unsettling truth easier to receive and challenges to the status quo profoundly liberating."--Ruth Haley Barton, founder, Transforming Center; author, Sacred Rhythms and Invitation to Solitude and Silence 
Spirituality has an indispensable role to play in the expression of our humanity. However, spiritual practices can sometimes make us less, not more, authentically human. We may be good Christians, but we aren't good human beings. How can we ensure that our spiritual journey is conducted in a way that allows us to become fully alive and deeply human?

David Benner has spent thirty-five years integrating psychology and spirituality. Here he presents an expansive, psychologically informed understanding of spirituality, probing the contrasts between soulful and soulless spirituality, deep and shallow religion, and healthy and unhealthy relationships with God to affirm the vital role of human development in the spiritual journey. Benner then suggests soulful practices for cultivating the Christian spiritual life.

This book will appeal to readers seeking depth and substance in their quest for authentic spirituality. It will also be a helpful resource for mental health professionals and spiritual directors. Reflection questions and exercises for individual or group use are included at the end of each chapter.

Part One: The Challenge of Becoming Fully Human
1. The Struggle to Be Fully Alive
2. Our Restless Hearts
3. Understanding Our Humanity
Part Two: The Path to Becoming Fully Human
4. Living with Spirit and Soul
5. The Spiritual Nature of the Human Journey
6. Deep Religion and Healthy Spirituality
7. Embodied Spirituality
Part Three: Spiritual Practices for the Human Journey
8. Awareness
9. Wonder
10. Otherness
11. Reality
12. Presence
13. Surrender
Epilogue: Being at One


"David Benner offers us a masterpiece of understanding and guidance for mature, fully alive human living that is grounded in the depth of spiritual and contemplative awareness and practice and is further informed by his psychological knowledge and long experience attending to his own and other people's calls to authentic spiritual and human becoming. His questions and suggestions at the end of each chapter provide helpful ways to connect his insights and practices with readers' lives. The profound and fiercely honest human and spiritual wisdom found here will leave the reader more in touch with both the impediments to full human aliveness that need to be attended to and the possibilities of such aliveness, which are aided by the many concrete spiritual practices that Benner offers. He challenges our settling for a narrow, repressed way of life and spirituality and calls us to become more truly alive in every dimension of our being: body, soul, and spirit."

Tilden Edwards, founder and senior fellow, Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, Washington DC

"In Soulful Spirituality David Benner has done it again! In this profound, highly readable book that plumbs the depths, he integrates his impressive gifts in psychology and theology with his own lived spirituality as a lifelong seeker. To immerse oneself in Soulful Spirituality is the next best thing to sitting down with him for a transforming, intimate, and enlivening conversation."

Margaret Guenther, professor emerita of ascetical theology and former director of the Center for Christian Spirituality, General Theological Seminary

"I believe this will be David G. Benner's most important book. Some will find it controversial. But many more, I believe, will find it hope- and life-giving. Soulful Spirituality moves the reader beyond beliefs and practices to the discovery of the rich resources of an in-bodied Christian spirituality, resources for helping you become the unique and whole human being you were intended to be."

Gary W. Moon, vice president and integration chair, Richmont Graduate University; author, Apprenticeship with Jesus

"Someone needed to write this book, and I'm glad it was David Benner. His wise, incisive, and winsome style makes unsettling truth easier to receive and challenges to the status quo profoundly liberating."

Ruth Haley Barton, founder, Transforming Center; author, Sacred Rhythms and Invitation to Solitude and Silence

"Soulful Spirituality is a feast of encouraging wisdom that nourishes soul and spirit. In inviting language, images, and narratives, David Benner describes a way of living that is integrating and inspiring--a hearty blend of psychology, theology, and spirituality for all of us who seek to mature and thrive."

Tilden Edwards, founder and senior fellow, Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, Washington DC

"Anything David Benner writes is worth reading, and this is no exception. Read and be fed with real food!"

Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico

"Soulful Spirituality embodies the inseparable invitations of the spiritual and human journeys. Dr. Benner's writing is grounded in long years of research and practice at the intersections of human development, psychotherapy, and spiritual direction alongside his own desire to persist in becoming all that God intends. Soulful Spirituality stirs the reader's longing for connectedness, fulfillment, aliveness, and wholeness that is uniquely possible through intentional cooperation with God. Benner provides solid theological and developmental foundations for the practices he offers to support growth and deepening. Soulful Spirituality invites readers to embrace life as it is and to be open to God in the midst of ordinary/extraordinary reality. It is filled with possibilities that evoke pondering and prayer."

Jeannette A. Bakke, author, Holy Invitations: Exploring Spiritual Direction

"David's new book, Soulful Spirituality, needs to be read, dialogued with, and then used to overhaul our weak and anemic engagement with the real world. In a culture full of escape-this-world spiritualities on the one hand and narcissistic spiritualities on the other, David Benner says, 'absolutely not!' and then loudly and powerfully links our spirituality to the exciting lifelong task of becoming more fully and deeply human. David's identification of things like toxic spirituality will provide welcome hope to the growing number of people in 'religious recovery' who are on the spiritual and human journey but are simply worn out with the narrow approaches so common today. He has a deep commitment to us as embodied beings and as such helps us attend to an embodied spirituality. He gets at tough concepts like desire, longing, and restlessness, and few have dealt with the issue of ego, its role, and its limits as well as he does in this book. If you are ready to dig in, ready to really change and experience transformation, then by all means get this book. And then buy nine more copies to pass out to friends for a dialogue group! We need David Benner's stuff in our airspace. I am going to spread the word, and I hope you will too."

Ron Martoia, author, speaker, and founder of and

The Author

  1. David G. Benner PhD

    David G. Benner PhD

    David G. Benner (PhD, York University; postdoctoral studies, Chicago Institute of Psychoanalysis) is an internationally known depth psychologist, author, spiritual guide, and personal transformation coach who lives in Toronto, Ontario. Benner has authored or...

    Continue reading about David G. Benner PhD


"[Benner's] research plumbs the best of human development psychology and ancient spirituality wisdom to ground his proposal solidly within a global human experience. As a seasoned scholar, author, psychologist, and a spiritual director, Benner serves as an expert witness of what healthy and whole humans look like. . . . The church has benefitted greatly from Benner's seeking. . . . He has contributed greatly to the psychospiritual (a term he uses) understanding of the person and paved a more formidable path of spiritual maturity. . . . Especially helpful are the reflection questions at the end of each chapter that evoke the reader to deeply consider their current life and how it matches up with what they deeply long for. . . . I highly recommend this work for those interested in their own personal integration of soul and spirit as well as those who desire to assist others in the same journey through their counseling practices, teaching, and spiritual direction."

Anthony W. Shelton, Journal of Psychology and Christianity

"Students and professionals, particularly in the teaching or helping professions, can benefit greatly from Benner's integrative perspective of the human condition, which draws wisdom from Scripture, psychology, spirituality, and a lifetime of seeking and encounter."

David C. Wang,

Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care

"Benner brings to his very helpful approach to spirituality a wide background in Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, and Islam faiths that includes spending time in many countries across the world. . . . I found the sections on 'Spiritual Practices for the Human Journey' particularly helpful and at times inspiring. . . . Soulful Spirituality is a book for the searcher and for the committed Christian. In uncomplicated language it helps clarify the journey to a gracious God in prayer. You don't have to be a so-called expert to find practical positive help here on the pilgrim way."

Father Tom Caswell,

Inland Register (Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington)