Quill and Quire

REVIEWS

« Back to
Book Reviews

The Heart of Conflict: A Spirituality of Transformation

by Dr. Elinor D.U. Powell

There are few writers who can match the clarity, knowledge, and good intentions of Dr. Elinor Powell, a mediator and trainer at the Institute of Conflict Analysis and Management in Victoria. Dr. Powell offers more than the usual existential platitudes and quick-fix tips offered by masters of “conflict resolution.” This thoughtful and well-written book is a serious appeal for humanity to develop a spiritual approach to resolving conflicts of all kinds, whether minor or on a global scale.

Dr. Powell is a retired physician who, in the 1980s, joined the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Her early childhood in Ireland acquainted her with the cycle of quarrelling and forgiveness, and her experience as a physician taught her the role that forgiveness plays in the healing of the human body and spirit.

The third chapter of the book, “The Human Spirit Manifested,” is an exceptional lesson in how to change one’s approach to dealing with an aggressor or combatting aggression within oneself. This is not a book about the “Art of War;” it is a treatise on how to become more human by learning to manifest peace. The book ends with “Meditations on a Quarrel,” a series of practical, directive prayers and affirmations that the individual can use to get to the root of a conflict or problem.

Dr. Powell admits in her introduction that she was barely able to scratch the surface of this enormous topic, but she has done an amazing job of providing readers with varying perspectives. One finds everything from a definition of academic terms to a chapter on how postmodernism has redefined our conceptions of peace to a discussion of the nature of coercion and the role it plays in power struggles. The book is also useful for anyone studying conflict resolution and mediation at the post-secondary level.