Sport as a Spiritual Practice. Mastery, Failure, and Transcendence in the Life of Athletes

Author: Hutch, Richard
TThis work examines how the individual player moves toward a religious enlightenment through sport. It argues that this spiritual enlightenment is uniquely her or his own without the trappings of doctrinal creeds or traditional religious discourse.


This religion of sport functions in a similar way as Christianity or Judaism or Islam in the life of the athlete. This development moves toward a spiritual end without the player necessarily linked to a recognized faith system. As Hutch describes, “sport in the life of the individual becomes a person’s religious affiliation – being Buddhist, Muslim, or Christian is beside the point.” -Dr. Christopher J. Anderson, Drew University

“…This thought-provoking investigation is critical and analytical in a way that will appeal to both academics and participants alike who wish to understand the spiritual connections between individuals and sporting activity.” -Dr Murray Phillips, University of Queensland

“…provides bases for re-appraisal and alternative thinking about sport and spirituality.”- Dr. Ian Jobling, University of Queensland

Table of Contents

Commendatory Foreword by Christopher J. Anderson
Introduction: Sport and Spirituality
• The Sacred, the Holy or Both?
• Spirituality in Sport: To Bear Witness
Chapter 1: The Farthest Horizon:
Solo Sailing and Peril at Sea
• At Sea with William James
• Moral Presence/Strength: Brief Illustration
• Two Dimensions of Spiritual Presence or Moral Strength
• The Hubris of Technical Mastery
• A Phenomenology of Moral Presence/Spiritual Strength
Chapter 2: Throttle-up a Whirlwind:
Recreational Motorcyclists and Shamanistic Speed
• Arenas of Progressive History, the Primordial Cosmos or Both?
• Shaman’s Elixir: Ascending and Descending at Speed
• Sport as Spiritual Practice
Chapter 3: To the Summit:
Climbing Mountains and Expanding Spiritual Vision
• Mountains and the Human Life-Cycle
• Spirituality: Encounters with the Intractability of Nature
• Pramatic Spirituality
• Climbers and Transcendence
• Sacred Heights Back Down the Mountain
Chapter 4: To the Deep:
Scuba Diving and the Primordial Depths of Living
• Underworld Spiritual Mystery: Jacques-Yves Cousteau
• Terror in the Underworld: The Rouses
Chapter 5: Labyrinths Underground
: Caving, Spelunking and Visions of Spiritual Darkness
• Beneath the Surface of the Earth
• Caving in a Higher Key: Holy Places
• Creation: From Historical Covenant to Primordial Act
Chapter 6: Soaring like Angels
: Sky Diving and BASE Jumping in the Heavens Above
• Sacred and Holy Space: “It’s Awesome!”
• Popular Access to the Heavens: Flying Kites • High-Tech Shamans in Flight
Afterword: Mastery, Failure and the Work of Moral Strength
• The Religious Style: Manager
• The Spiritual Style: Tradesperson