Ascent of the Mountain, Flight of the Dove

An Invitation to Religious Studies


The essence of Ascent of the Mountain, Flight of the Dove remains intact: its vision of religious studies as sustained reflection on our lifelong voyage to discover who we are. The story we choose for ourselves, the story we live, can sacralize or secularize our lives and our world by the way in which we choose to relate to it. With this awareness of the story dimension of life, Ascent of the Mountain, Flight of the Dove opens us to awe, reverence, and wonder at the risks and possibilities of human freedom.

This book is even more important than it was thirty years ago. We need religion to strike deeply into the self, away from public glare. Unless Americans become more sophisticated about the language of the self, inner life will shrivel. In addition, our people will continue to be vulnerable to fundamentalist movements. Such movements take over too many innocents. They promise, and sometimes deliver, a touching happiness. But they do so by closing the spirit in a powerful and dangerous way.

Families and schools do not provide a large and critical vocabulary by which to express the inner longings of the spirit. The souls of many are parched and they gladly accept water, any water, from those who off er it. Th e liberation of the religious spirit from trivial, closed, and simplistic systems of thought can only be achieved through the development of a critical language, exercises, and disciplines that open rather than close the mind, that lead to higher viewpoints, breakthroughs, and new syntheses, in a constant enlargement of spirit. Novak’s book leads us to that place.

Originally Published: 1971


“Michael Novak, one of the liveliest minds on the American religious scene today, here seeks to introduce religious studies by making the reader reflect about his own experience. The approach throughout is existential rather than abstractly intellectual. There is a particular effort to relate to the concerns of the contemporary student generation.”

Peter L. Berger
Rutgers University

“Michael Novak is an expert at picking out the categories which prove to be fruitful in the study of religion, categories like story and autobiography, standpoint and horizon, symbol and sense of reality.”

John Dunne
University of Notre Dame