Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Spirituality Redefined for the Publishing World - Watkins's Top 100


In the Spring issue of the Watkins Review, that venerable bookshop shared with us their list of 'the 100 most spiritually influential living people'. Can we learn anything from this unusual claim? What new meanings of 'spirituality' can we work out from this list?

Well, starting with numero uno, the top of what they refer to as 'The 100 Spiritual Power List', is someone I'd never previously heard of, Eckhart Toller.

This list is mainly of people I've never heard of (63 of them), and of the other 37, I've mostly not read their books. But that's just me.

The Dalai Lama is at #2; no surprise there; he would certainly fit most people's profile of the term 'spiritual'.

Ken Wilber is at #9; that also doesn't surprise me - he tries to make sense out of culture and higher consciousness, so that qualifies as spiritual.

I started getting puzzled, with Oprah Winfrey at #8. I know, I didn't either. Click on the link above; it gets weirder.

At #14 was my second big surprise - Alejandro Jodorowsky. That the creator of the wonderful film 'The Holy Mountain' can rub shoulders with the stiff, pretentious paintings of Alex Grey (#16), makes for strange bedfellows in the 'spiritual'. That writers of barking-mad drivel such as Drunvalo Melchizedek (#36) can share the space with the divine Alan Moore (#49) is even weirder; that the fantasist Erich von Däniken (#63) can hobnob with Stanislav Grof (#89), one of the greatest healers of all time, is just bloody daft.

But then again, I shouldn't be surprised; this is a list of what sold, so there are no criteria of quality at all.

Still, someone at Watkins Review did have to decide which books, films, paintings and lives (Nelson Mandela, #19) had some quality called 'spiritual'. So what explains the inclusion of Dan Brown at #42? No, there doesn't seem to be another world-renowned writer of this name; it really is the man who wrote 'The Da Vinci Code', so what is he doing here? I'm not paying £4.95 for a copy of the Review to find out, so I guess I'll never know.


  1. a strange list to be sure, but the criteria are so vague that i'm not really sure why anyone should take it seriously. personally, for a list of "people you can connect the word 'spiritual' to (regardless of what it's supposed to mean) who are known to large groups", i might put oprah winfrey at #1 -- she seems to be the main reason for eckhart tolle's success, after all...

  2. I'm not sure either why anyone would take it seriously. It does rather suggest that some booksellers live in a world of their own.