5 Spiritual Books About Animals

5 Spiritual Books About Animals

Getty/Serhii Shleihel

If you consider yourself a spiritual animal lover, dive into these five book titles suggested by our animal chaplain.

According to some reports, there are an estimated 20 quintillion animals on Earth. Compare that with our human population of 8.1 billion people, and an insight becomes quite clear: Our planet is mostly other-than-human.

The world’s religions and wisdom traditions have a lot to say about our interactions with the other beings we share the planet with. (Or, perhaps more accurately, that we try to share Earth with. We aren’t always the most generous sharers!)

Here are my top book recommendations for learning more about the enmeshed connections between animals, us, and the divine.

Karma and Reincarnation in the Animal Kingdom: The Spiritual Origin of Species
by David Barreto

Do animals have chakras or auras? Are there astral connections between animals and elementals? These are just two of the metaphysical questions David Barreto tackles in his creative survey of the esoteric schools of spiritual thinking and ancient cultures of India, Asia, and Egypt. Karma and Reincarnation in the Animal Kingdom also draws on scientific literature, to which Barreto adds his extrasensory perception. The combination results in an intriguing book about the possibilities for animal lives that may not be provable but are nevertheless worth considering.

Jataka Tales (audiobook)
Translated by Noor Inayat Khan and read by Ellen Burstyn

Did you know that before the Buddha was the Buddha—or even Siddhartha Gautama—he lived as an elephant? The more than 500 ancient tales of the Jātaka collection (aka “birth stories”) offer a peek into multispecies reincarnation, as well as the spiritual practices that are required to attain Buddhahood. Each tale is also a thought-provoking consideration of how humans wrestle with our relationships with other creatures. This audiobook translation offers 18 perfect bedtime stories for animal-loving adults.

Pashu: Animal Tales from Hindu Mythology
By Devdutt Pattanaik

For a lighthearted look at animal creation stories, moral tales, and answers to questions like, “Why does Shiva have a snake coiled around his neck?” check out Pashu. This book is intended for children, so it contains very accessible short readings about the relationships between animals and divine beings within Hindu traditions. Each page is illustrated with playful line-art drawings that turn this collection into a delightful adult coloring book, too.

Animal Theologians
Edited by Andrew Linzey and Clair Linzey

If you are looking for more academic reading about what religions think about animals, consider the 24 scholarly studies in this collection curated by the directors of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. You’ll find the ethical musings of celebrated religious thinkers, including Paul Tillich, Mahatma Gandhi, and Albert Schweitzer; the book spans Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Quakerism, transcendentalism, and other traditions. If you’d like to make a solid religious argument for why humans should treat animals fairly and compassionately, this is your book.

Noah’s Ark: An Annotated Encyclopedia of Every Species in the Hebrew Bible
By Donald Ray Schwartz

More than 100 species appear in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, and yet many of us might be unaware of the lessons their stories offer. Luckily, Donald Ray Schwartz has collected them all in one excellent reference work. Beyond the familiar dove and serpent stories, you’ll find moles, geckos, bears, and even a dragon, accompanied by biblical references, as well as details on what rabbis and scholars think these stories meant in their original context and some implications for how we might read these verses today.

Learn three ways to read books as a spiritual practice: Tsundoku, Jólabókaflóð, and Quaestio Divina.

5 Spiritual Books About Animals

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