The Inner Journey: Views from the Christian Tradition (PARABOLA Anthology Series) [Paperback] Review

The Inner Journey: Views from the Christian Tradition [Paperback]This offering is one of eight in this excellent Parabola series which offers indepth introductions to the world's great religious traditions. The series takes its place alongside Paulist Press' now-famous Clasics in Western Spirituality series. It might be used alongside of the excellent one-volume survey The Study of Spirituality, Cheslyn Jones,et al, eds. (1986). The Inner Journey provides an anthology of 20th Century writers who have practiced and/or deeply studied the classic schools of Christian spirituality.

Its selections offer encouragement and enrichment for those seeking to practice the life of prayer and transformation which is variously described here. For some, perhaps with Protestant or Independent Christian background, it may be an initial invitation to a dimension of Christian life about which they have known only little.

Many 20th Century voices who have become major Christian teachers are to be found here: Paul Tillich, Thomas Merton, Bede Griffiths, David Steindl-Rast, and Thomas Keating. Helen Luke, known for her Christian-Jungian work with Dante's Divine Comedy is accompanied by more recently-emerging female teachers of Christian sprituality, Norvene Vest, Cynthia Bourgeault, Irma Zaleski, Helen Pagels and Kim Coleman Healy. Long-standing contributors to the West's understanding of the Orthodox tradition are included: Alexander Schmemann, Thomas Hopko, and Kallistos Ware. Among others Christopher Bamford, who along with Esther DeWaal and others who have mined the treasures of the Celtic Christian tradition, has two offerings. There is a fine bibliography.

In identifying these contemporary writers, we see how the great tradition of the Jesus Prayer and hesychasm in Orthodoxy and desert sprituality, the ethos and practice of Benedictine spirituality, the Christian stream of contemplative prayer, East-West integrations, as well as the gnostic tradition, are taken up and filtered through the minds and practices of contemporary Christian teachers and spritual masters.

Merton, Healy, and Keating speak with characteristic incisiveness about the transformation of consciousness, that path of dis-identification with the "false self" which must inevitably come with the inner journey. This is in resonance with the classic path of ascesis in both desert spirituality and Western contemplative prayer.

I cite just one piece as an example of the profundity of what these authors are inviting us to explore. James Cutsinger's article The Yoga of Hesychasm, based on Theophanus the Monk's "The Ladder of Divine Graces," will serve as a challening introduction for those readers unfamiliar with the writings of the Philokalia. A shorter, more compact piece that the classic of similar title by John of Climacus, this "ladder" tells of "pure prayer," "a strange holy energy," and the "gift of tears." In perceptive 20th century language, Cutsinger writes: The tears of the Ladder are not tears of selfish regret or refusal. On the contrary; they are the natural result of the ego's liquification.

If you are beginning or continuing the Christian path of transformation, the readings will serve you well.

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Product Description:
For over three decades, those for whom religion is a path of discovery and questioning have found insight in the pages of Parabola. This thoughtful anthology collects the magazine's best writings on Christianity, featuring articles from Thomas Merton, Elaine Pagels, Philip Zaleski, Thomas Keating, and 20 other authors who vividly explore what it means to be a Christian. The collection combines poetry and folklore with incisive interviews and cogent essays on topics such as the search for self, attention and remembrance, transformational knowledge, and worldly and divine works. A lavish, full-color, 16-page set of plates brilliantly conveys the rich variety within the tradition. From full works of great intricacy to passages of pure insight, The Inner Journey: Views from the Christian Tradition spans the tradition's greatest trends. For readers looking for an introduction to Christianity or those seeking to expand their knowledge of it, the journey in this book inspires and enlightens.

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