Wordtrade LogoWordtrade.com


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Spiritual Direction


Meditation for the Twenty-First Century

Completely Revised and Updated

by Morton Kelsey

Paulist Press

$22.95, paper, 396 pages, notes, selected bibliography


Spiritual classics are hard to revise. This book helped Christian’s refocus prayer into silent contemplation. It reopened Christianity to the psyche and refreshened old dogmas with psychological wisdom. As in all epoch defining books this volume had its faults and reflected the social context of its origin. Kelsey has been a prolific author, amplifying and correcting many of the positions he had taken in this book. Still many years made this classic in need of a revamping. A removing of non-inclusive language, a toning down of some of the rhetoric as well as a fine rectification of positions makes this new edition, not so much new as more wise and lucid.

Kelsey has come to realize over the years that the great majority of people have no spiritual practice and have been taught to believe that they live in a purely physical, material universe—a mathematically determined space-time-energy-mass box. There is no place in their thinking or belief for a creative spiritual dimension of reality, there would be no way they could experience spiritual reality even if it did exist. According to this view, human beings are confined to reason and sense experience. However, some of the finest modern physicists have come to doubt this materialistic view. Kelsey discusses some new scientific discoveries that confirm the statement of the revolutionary physicist Werner Heisenberg that all the basic words in classical physics have had to change their meaning as subatomic physics has developed, and that words like God, spirit, and soul may be closer to reality than the words of physics.

In his seminary training he learned that the followers of Jesus rose from their terror and lethargy as Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead triumphant and victorious. They began to proclaim a vision of the Holy One of Israel; they announced that the Creator was seeking with unconditional love to bring us human beings into eternal fellowship with the Divine. Jesus was the embodiment of this love. His followers believed that the risen Christ was still with them and that living in the kingdom of heaven now and eternally was their goal. So there was nothing left to fear. Within three hundred years these disciples conquered the empire that had used persecution and torture to destroy them. They succeeded because they knew the risen Christ was with them now and always.

But how did they know? Kelsey asks. What did they experience? In the seminary he had not been taught any methods of prayer, meditation, or contemplation. Kelsey recited the right prayers and went to all the chapel services—he tried every method he knew, including some of the techniques of the religions of India. But when he became a pastor, although he was trying to lead people on the spiritual way of Christianity, he was lost myself. He found himself alone in a dark wood in midlife facing destructive darkness, depressed because he did not know the spiritual way himself. Through a series of coincidences, Kelsey was led to a man who knew what darkness (lostness) and anxiety really were—a Jew who had survived a Nazi concentration camp. He listened to me and opened my eyes to a new vision of reality, the view that we human beings are a bridge or doorway between two worlds. We are material, physical beings, and we are also spiritual beings. Through the practice of silence, imagination, and prayer, we can find a center of eternal caring and love that has conquered evil, darkness, and death in the risen Christ and seeks to bring us through the worst that fear and disaster can do to us. He showed Kelsey a method through which he could open himself to the saving power at the heart of being. Kelsey was able to go on with hope through many difficulties and share with others what he had learned.

The twenty years since the first publication of this book have been years of growth and new insights for Kelsey. In those years he has written twenty-five books. But then an editor suggested that this book needed to be updated to integrate some of the insights that he had learned in recent years.

Twenty years ago Kelsey was writing in white heat. He could find few modern books that described the kind of prayer and meditation that had led him to the risen Christ who drew him out of the abyss, and in his passion to describe what he had discovered, the book poured out of him. And now, years later, he began revising the pages of that first edition in a strange and unexpected place where his wife and he knew no one and where they had no other responsibilities. This writing was not a burden, but more like a retreat. He again lived the experiences the book described. He suggests that the book be read with the heart and imagination as well as the mind.

The way of praying that he describes will not touch everyone. His wife of fifty-three years has quite a different way, which she has described in his books Companions on the Inner Way and Reaching: The Journey to Fulfillment. His wife and him each have found our own unique ways of prayer, and then they have shared them in daily Eucharist together.


Finding our Spiritual Lives through Ceremony

by Adele Getty


$19.00, cloth, 210 pages, bibliography, index


Getty manages to show the deep links with embodied spirituality that ritual celebrates. Her grasp of New Age writers shows a well studied approach to her sources and intutions. She provides a path for filling this existential void by teaching how to recapture the wisdom of sacredness that has served humanity in the past and how to incorporate it into their everyday lives. Events such as birth, death, and puberty or problems like addiction and broken relationships are applicable to this method of sacred renewal.

More than just another exploration of New Age sensibilities with a feminist twist, rather Getty manages to show the deep links with embodied spirituality that ritual celebrates. Her grasp of new Age writers and the age old tradition of their sources makes this a wise romp through consciousness living.

With all of the challenges people face today--divorce, blended families, mid-life crises, career changes and substance abuse--there is a deep-seated hunger for spiritual balm: a way of life that transcends a simple "feel-good-fix." People are desperate for a feeling of spiritual connection to themselves, their loved ones and their community. Previous cultures have used rituals, ceremonial practices, initiatory moments, and rites of passages as the glue that held them together. These cohesive elements often seem to be missing in modern society. The very heart of this book is embedded in the sacred, what it is, how its loss has affected us and how we might recapture it through ceremonial practice.

A SENSE OF THE SACRED provides a path for filling this existential void by teaching how to recapture the wisdom of sacredness that has served humanity in the past and how to incorporate it into their everyday lives. Events such as birth, death, and puberty or problems like addiction and broken relationships are applicable to this method of sacred renewal. Getty takes a fresh, unique look at ceremony by providing an overview as to how we as a society lost the sacred and why it is so urgently needed now. It blends psychological healing work with the spiritual aspects of shamanism and eco-psychology and draws from a variety of cultures using straightforward language.

Both traditional and non-traditional readers will learn the value of utilizing ceremony to make the events in their lives more meaningful and practice new ways of solving problems. Whether it be a crisis, transition, or general sense of spiritual ambiguity, people can shape their life experiences into celebratory, transformative, or initiatory moments by utilizing the wisdom and practice conveyed in A SENSE OF THE SACRED

From Center to Circumference
God's Place in the Circle of Self
by Elizabeth-Anne Vaneck
Paulist Press
$10.95, paper; 132 pages
ISBN 0-8091-3623-6
spiritual direction

Spiritual direction has flourished in recent years as people seek guidance toward living in greater harmony with their ultimate concerns. It has also been a place where women can exercise their call to ministry without the strictures of priesthood, at least in the Catholic and Orthodox confessions of Christianity. Vaneck holds a joint appointment with University Ministry and the Department of Religious Studies at DePaul University. She has authored Image Guidance: A Tool for Spiritual Direction and Image Guidance and Healing. Her previous work is a development of using natural occurring symbols from our dreams and in our culture as a means of deepening our appreciation and the power of the symbolic ways the divine presence becomes known to us. It is not at the forefront of our consciousness but in the margins, in the oblique invitations that underpin our language, metaphors and dreams.
From Center to Circumference tells her spiritual journey to discover a deeper relationship with God in daily life. As a spiritual director Vanek gives an elementary survey to detecting the signs of God's call to us in the solid events of our everyday lives. She describes in the vivid language of her own experience how this invitation has occurred in her own life. She presents herself in a frank, unpretentious way. Many of her doubts and problems are familiar to anyone concerned to find the presence of God.
She realizes that God disports at both the center and the circumference of our self-awareness. It is in this location of where God is most present that brings the greatest power to he insights. In this recognition of the intimate and remote invitation of the divine in her experience she also brings in a means of invitation through her own spiritual directors. Some of the great mystics and psychologists of the past.
Vaneck especially reflects upon Confessions of St. Augustine and Revelations of Divine Love by Juliana of Norwich. Spiritual direction often requires a reserve about one's own insight and experience. It takes great courage to lay bare one's own place of intimate contact with God. Reading this book I am struck by Vanek's willingness to be candid about her own personal story. It makes her advice more appealing and spiritual friendship less forbidding. Perhaps her example will motivate others to gather in reverence to share their own stories of the presence of God in their lives.
One issue at the center of her insight is the nature of the self in relation to God. Also how symbols enliven our everyday events to provide unexpected meaning to common events. The relation of God and self is a never-ending dance in the eternal life of the spirit. Most realizations of self or no-self are probably plateaus, rather than pentacle views of the divine.

Headline 3

insert content here

WT Main | About WT | Review Links | Contact | Review Sources | Search

Copyright © 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Headline 3

insert content here