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Book Reviews

Being Still Not Waiting - a companion to mindfulness, meditation and living

Simon Cole is a counsellor, therapist and meditation teacher, he has brought all these skills into writing this very readable short book with deep understanding of his subject.   He takes you on a journey to explain clearly the various levels of meditation and how it can heal the stressed and busy mind to move you into a much greater self-understanding, which leads to finding that wonderfully peaceful and joyful “clear space” within.  A 'must read' for all that are interested in meditation.

The Good Retreat Guide 2014

Author: 
Simon Cole
Published: 
2013
Kindle: 
81 pages

Bhagavad-Gita

The more we become aware of the world’s religions, the more we can see the common threads of life woven by God. Here are excerpts from the great Hindu sacred spiritual masterpiece.

Translator: 
Laurie L. Patton
Publisher: 
Penguin Classics
Published: 
2008
ISBN 13: 
9780140447903
Paperback: 
288 pages

Confessions

One of the most famous of all confessions of a soul. It remains a work which inspires us to realise that no matter how low we fall in life there is hope that we can rise again. The story of a sinner who became one of the world’s most loved and influencial saints.

Author: 
Saint Augustine
Publisher: 
Penguin Classics
Published: 
2002
ISBN 13: 
9780140441147
Paperback: 
352 pages

Crossing – Reclaiming the Landscape of Our Lives

A new and fresh look at the famous Christian Divine Office which is the book of daily prayers used by monks and nuns. Brother Mark, a monk himself, takes us on a journey through his days with prayers with thoughts and observations on God and life that have been written with love and understanding.

Author: 
Mark Barrett
Publisher: 
Darton, Longman & Todd
Published: 
2007
ISBN 13: 
9780232526967
Paperback: 
136 pages

Dark Night of the Soul

St. John is one of the greatest poets of Spain and Spanish literature and among the most famous Christian saints and mystics. Previous translations in English have been done from a strictly traditional Christian point of view and often in obscure and out-of-fashion language. Starr’s new translation is done from an wide-open spirituality perspective in everyday modern language. It is a wonderful way to discover the thinking and inspiration of this mystic and it makes him available to everyone.

Author: 
St. John of the Cross
Publisher: 
Dover Publications
ISBN 13: 
9780486426938
Paperback: 
111 pages

The Desert Fathers

Put aside all those ’little books’ that they sell today and try this one instead. Here is wisdom from men and women who went to the wilderness and listened to God. Short, snappy, and right to the point saying. Some will make you laugh with self-recognition and others help you to live a sacred life. You may be like thousands before you and find you love these first hermits who yearned for God above all else.

Author: 
Helen Waddell
Publisher: 
The University of Michigan Press
Published: 
1957
ISBN 13: 
9780472060085
Paperback: 
216 pages

The Essential Gay Mystics

A collection about saints and holy men and women who were gay. This book will help to heal the wounds of all who have experienced rejection and exclusion from organised religions and to inspire everyone, gay or not.

Author: 
Andrew Harvey
Publisher: 
Castle Books
ISBN 13: 
9780785809074
Hardback: 
290 pages

The Gay Gospels: Good News for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered People

Reviewed by Urs Mattmann, author of Coming In – Gay and Lesbian people reclaiming the spiritual journey.

Happily in the past 45 years dozens of affirmative, liberating and inspiring Christian books have been written from different angles, debunking religious homophobia, urging the full acceptance and inclusion of LGBT people. This new book, The Gay Gospels by Keith Sharpe, makes another valuable contribution.

It makes is the point that the Good News of Jesus is also Good News for LGBT people and tries to emphasis what this practically means in practical terms. One is aware that it does this from an evangelical angle and tries to reach people with rather conservative understanding of the bible.

A first part called The Defensive Testament looks at the few passages in the Bible that have been misused to harm LGBT people and gay men in particular by the church and the societies it affected. There is little new to discover as this subject has been explored so many times, but it is helpful to have all the argument s gathered together in a concise and well structured form.

With many great books on this subject already written, the main unique contribution of the book is in its second part: Here in an more original, positively provocative way the author explores biblical texts where he sees a specific gay friendly narrative and message. Besides the already familiar examples like that of David & Jonathan, the narrative examines themes and stories that have been less or not at all highlighted in the past. For example, in chapters like Jesus was no family man or The Transgendered Christ stand out.

Much has been written lately about a special relationship of Jesus with Mary Magdalena which reflects our contemporary interest in sensationalism about historic figures. In The Gay Gospels, the author makes a very enlightening point with challenging implications about the relationship of Jesus with the Beloved Disciple as much more important.

The Good Retreat Guide can highly recommend The Gay Gospels as it offers a vision of the Christian Faith which is full of hope for LGBT people.

Author: 
Keith Sharpe
Publisher: 
Circle Books
ISBN 13: 
9781846945489
Paperback: 
214 pages

God in the Bath: Relaxing in the Everywhere Presence of God

The author invites us to take a fresh look at the omnipresence of God. One of the founders of the Sea of Faith Network, www.sofn.org.uk, he sets out to explore what this God-is-everywhere idea means for Christians. He aims to help readers to refresh their faith and get some new vision as to their understanding of God in their lives.

Seeing a reshaping of the Christian fait, he declares that faith, as we understand it, has got to change. Exactly what this means I am not sure since Christianity is always in a state of change anyway. Perhaps he just wants us to hurry up and get back to some basic God centred changes in the way we view our life in God and the way we live this vision. Quite right too, when you look around at the state of the world.

He explores how the secular world has kidnapped the idea of spirituality and transplanted it into the Western feel-good -factor, so successfully used by industry and the advertising world to sell their products on the basis of life-style values. So he starts us off in the bathroom and suggests we mistake the experience of spirituality by mixing it up with lavender scents, flickering candles, and bubbly baths and all the other stuff that promotes the idea we can buy calmness of the self and, thus, closeness to God in the supermarket. .This might appear so from articles in magazines and newspapers and from television shows and even from the huge amount of things we buy that hold out the promise of a better self. In reality I suspect the majority of people have a better understanding than that of what is true spiritual experience and what is not. After all, a British survey in the 1980s showed that well over sixty percent of people said they had had a life experience outside of the ordinary that they believed was of a holy and spiritual nature. Do people really confuse God’s presence with advertising messages? Isn’t God always there in our deepest self so that our consciousness is never too far from awareness of Him? In any case if the author is talking, as he appears to be, to believers then it is unlikely that they would mistake pleasurable relaxation with essential oils as a spiritual experience. In any case, God might be greatly pleased to find me in a state of physical and mental calm. After all, as many retreat houses know, saunas, massage and Jacuzzi’s help people to relax and enter into the present moment. It is this being in the present moment when anxieties, worries and the concerns of a too busy life may slip away. From that place, such a stilled mind aware only of the moment, may find the presence of God.

The author writes that Faith’s miracles are childish conjuring tricks compared to the awesome powers of the atom and the computer chip. In view of the rising up of Lazarus from the dead and making the blind see, surely he says this with tongue in cheek? For me the power given by the atom and the computer chip is an human illusion of the kind of power Christ condemned while Faith’s miracles show the power of God’s love.

In his chapter on Creation the author makes a distinction between God and the world God makes. For me this reflects false duality, because if God is everywhere and in everything and is omnipresence, then He cannot be separated from his own Creation. He is either here and in it or not. Islam would say God transcends all and Thomas Aquinas added …but is in and of all things. The author’s point that God is everywhere gets on sticky ground when he discusses Creation doctrine. Yet he reclaims solid ground and his argument with the conclusion that there is no search for God, for we are already with and in God.

This book for me was a statement of one man’s understanding of his faith and his earnest and evangelistic urge to share that understanding with others. All good stuff, but the message of this faith in the book seems to be summed up in his lines: In God our journey into life is deepened through our journey into Christ into our humanity. If he wants us to be radical Christians, then this statement of faith, profound as it may be to explore, is for me about as radical as a wet noodle. On the other hand the author is addressing Christians, particularly churchgoers and his sincerity shines through the text. He longs for their refreshment in Christ, for their renewal of faith and for them to become more aware that God is everywhere.

On this score, I felt that this book was good for those who as Anglicans or Catholics would readily call themselves Christians, but who may have drifted away from feeling the presence of God and Christ in their everyday lives. As Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection reminded us long ago: I am with God when I am cooking my little omelette. If Brother Lawrence had bathed, which in his day was unlikely, he might have written as the author did: I am with God when I am taking my bath.

When the author writes that our exploration of ourselves as persons runs parallel to our exploration of the person of god, he seems to have firmly grasped his theme and with much clarity goes on to explore god in our love, spirit, faith, earth, and death and in the bath with scented oils as well, of course. God is everywhere and indeed we Christian forget this most of the time. Dom Edmund Jones, the first Catholic priest to celebrate the Eucharist on British television, once wrote in discussing being in the presence of God -and much to the embarrassment of many of his readers back in the still shock able world of the fifties: you can pray even in the toilet. Reading this book, I am sure the author would agree.

Author: 
Stephen Mitchell
Publisher: 
Circle Books
ISBN 13: 
9781905047659
Paperback: 
112 pages

Good Living in Hard Times: The Art of Contentment

Whiteaker’s belief in the importance of spiritual harmony and peaceful integration of mind and body is often inspiring and always compelling.  Daily Express

Good Living in Hard Times explains how you can get the best from the life you have now and find a peacefulness that no bank or politician or credit card company can take away from you. The goal is for you to live a contented life no matter your present situation.

From the Middle East Spring to the Occupy Wall Street movements, people are demanding changes to economic, social and political systems that have failed them. To succeed, their demands of Dignity! and People before Profits! will mean a change in their society’s moral and ethical values. While vigorously supporting collective efforts, the author believes that the way to sustain such change when it comes is by the way we live our own life.

Good Living in Hard Times discusses those values which have stood the test of time and need once again to be our benchmarks for living. Self-reliance, personal dignity, and economic reality are the major themes. Fresh air, sound sleep, eating real food, sexuality, laughter, hospitality and other values are discussed which make for a stable contentment that raises you above your present circumstances. The author does not offer quick fi x solutions or self-development practices which soon fall out of use because they have no attachment to real life.

With practicality, Good Living in Hard Times explains things that make you poor, healthy and rich. With such understanding, Stafford Whiteaker believes we become self-reliant and discover a lasting union with our neighbours, our planet and ourselves. He claims that when we live this way we not only find deep contentment but we contribute to the common good of our society.

The benefits of paying attention to our spiritual life are legendary and bring emotional, psychic, and physical healing which connects us to values that neither money nor power can buy. Stafford Whiteaker, internationally recognized for his writing on spirituality, discusses the part it plays in giving us a vision beyond just the tiny bit of the world we see and touch. He reminds us that “our bodies and minds may be limited by time, but our spirit is an eternal force as strong as the stars and as tender as a mother’s touch.”

Author: 
Stafford Whiteaker
Publisher: 
O-Books, Alresford
Published: 
2012
ISBN 13: 
9781780993164
Paperback: 
296 pages

Good News Bible

Immensely popular and easy to read modern translation of the bible. Likle most people you probably use many expressions every day which springs from the bible. Here is a chance to find out the story behind those words – and to be inspired by the ‘greatest book ever written.’

Editor: 
The Bible Society
Publisher: 
Harper Collins
ISBN 13: 
9780007284283
Paperback: 
1,280 pages

The Healing Code: 6 Minutes to Heal the Source of Your Health, Success or Relationship Issue

I ordered this book and the audio programme as soon I heard about it.

The book is clear and concise and backs up all the claims it makes.

The explanation of the technique for using the healing code is clear and a child can do it. However, for those who want/need more direction and a deeper experience with more fine tuned codes, you must turn to the full healing codes program. This doesn’t mean it’s a pitch for pulling you into an expensive program to get benefit.  Dr. Lloyd’s commitment to getting this information to as many as he can is strong and keeps the program within reach of everyone

This book will help anyone who picks it up on whatever level they’re willing to utilise the code. I highly recommend it.

Kim Didden

Author: 
Dr Alex Lloyd & Dr Ben Johnson
Publisher: 
Hodder & Stoughton
Published: 
2011
ISBN 13: 
9781444727715
Paperback: 
320 pages

Hindu Christ: Jesus’ Message through Eastern Eyes

Br. Martin, the author, was a close disciple of Father Bede Griffiths and still lives and teaches at his Shantivanam Ashram in India. He travels widely promoting inter-religious dialogue, trying to explain how the visions of the Indian Upanishads and that of the Bible can be reconciled. While the author does not enjoy the same ease of writing style nor often the simple clarity of thinking of Bede Griffith, he does takes us deeper in the ways and meanings of key concepts in the two great spiritualities he explores.

When he writes that religion that is based on the scriptures takes away human will and intellect, Br. Martin, Licentiate in Spirituality in the Gregorian University in Rome, makes it loud and clear where he stands. He is profoundly concerned, even at some points almost angrily so in his sincerity, with spirituality and the great vision of life and eternity that can be found in Holy Scriptures but not holy scripture as the basis of an established religion. He condemns a faith that demands the giving up of human will and intellect. He deplores how religions and scriptures become greater than people. In the sense that the God of such scriptures takes away human will and intellect, Br. Martin says that in this way God is in effect like our murderer. He agrees with Nietzsche that God is dead means our freedom. When that happens, he declares we can take life into our own hands. We can become free spirits.

Br. Martin’s retreat talks in Britain are well attended and praised and in this book, which is a collection of his articles which appeared in the newsletters of the Shantivanam Ashram, he covers a lot of troublesome ground in the common land of our spiritual journey, offering us what he sees as the real vision of God in our lives. Whether we are Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims or Buddhist he believes our spiritual life has two aspects. One is the historical, which gives rise to structured religions and takes away our freedom and is an aspect of our human ego. The other aspect is the eternal one, which belongs to the image and likeness of God. He tells us that in order to give birth to the God of I am what I am, one has to discover one’s own I am what I am, reminding us once again that Know thyself is the universal key to all spiritual understanding. For this holy exploration we need, as Br. Martin points out, freedom of intellect and will.

Author: 
John Martin Sahajananda
Publisher: 
Circle Books
ISBN 13: 
9781905047550
Paperback: 
120 pages

In Search of Nature

The teacher of the importance of bio-diversity in nature and our need to recognize its importance. This book may seem strange on a list of spirituality readings, but read it and you will regain consciousness of the wonder of our earth and the marvel of life.

Author: 
Edward O. Wilson
Publisher: 
Island Press
ISBN 13: 
9781559632164
Paperback: 
224 pages

Interior Prayer: Carthusian Novice Conferences

Here we share in the initiation of a group of young monks as they are introduced to the practice of prayer. We learn about the prayer process. A dazzling insight into little known and traditionally hidden ways to God.

Publisher: 
Gracewing
ISBN 13: 
9780852440384
Paperback: 
192 pages

Introducing The New Testament

John Drane explains in an easy to understand way these most famous of all sacred texts. People, places, and the meaning of events bring a deeper and clearer understanding of the message of God.

Author: 
John Drane
Publisher: 
Lion Hudson
ISBN 13: 
9780745955049
Paperback: 
480 pages

Koran

This is a good translation into English of the sacred book of Islam which all serious pilgrims on the spiritual path should read and study for inspiration and guidance on their journey.

Translator: 
N.J. Dawood
Publisher: 
Penguin Classics
ISBN 13: 
9780140449204
Paperback: 
464 pages

The Little Book of Inner Space

An international best-seller, translated into over seven languages. Do you sometimes feel swamped? Or ask, “Where’s the real me?” Such eternal questions can be answered deep inside us in the sanctuary of our essential spirit. This indispensable little book shows you how to find this place of retreat from the hectic world – and how to emerge from it fresh and renewed.

Author: 
Stafford Whiteaker
Publisher: 
Rider, London
Published: 
1998
ISBN 13: 
9780712670500
Paperback: 
96 pages

Living Buddha, Living Christ

Buddhist monk and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh has long been involved in Buddhist Christian dialogue and, as always in his writing, he brings new insights into Christianity and an appreciation that invites us to explore the common meeting place of compassion and holiness in the these two world religions. An easy and inspiring read which is helpful whether you are Buddhist, Christian or not commited to any particular faith.

Author: 
Thich Nhat Hanh
Publisher: 
Rider
ISBN 13: 
9780712672818
Paperback: 
208 pages

Living the Sacred - Ten Gateways to Open Your Heart

Getting in touch with our spiritual self and practising the sacred in our everyday lives is our birthright. It is essential for our physical, mental and emotional health. However, few of us know where to look, and also how it will help if we manage to catch a glimpse of the true self at the heart of our being. In this book Stafford Whiteaker offers ten gateways to letting spirituality flourish in our lives. These can be explored no matter where or who we are – Christian, Buddhist, New Age or of no particuilar persuasion. Included is the use of silence, meditation, midfulness, prayer and the arts of loving, dreaming and celebration.

“Buy it!” – Daily Express

Author: 
Stafford Whiteaker
Publisher: 
Rider & Co, London
Published: 
2000
ISBN 13: 
9780712608947
Paperback: 
254 pages

The New Jerusalem Bible

One of the very best translations of the history of God in the lives of men and women. These words are meant for everyone. The holy scriptures that changed the world.

Editor: 
Henry Wansbrough
Publisher: 
Darton,Longman & Todd
Published: 
2007
ISBN 13: 
9780232518900
Paperback: 
1,472 pages

The Path of Life

Another monk writing here for us in a time of the world which finds everything we know and understand changing. A book which helps all who wish to accept the challenge of living to the full their Christian vocation… and for all perhaps who want and need structure and comprehension in the way they live out a sacred life.

Author: 
Cyprian Smith
Publisher: 
Gracewing
ISBN 13: 
9780852443026
Paperback: 
192 pages

Paths of Solitude

If you have ever been drawn to live alone in solitude for spiritual reason, then Eve Baker’s book will be a good introduction to the solitary life as a part of your spiritual journey.

Author: 
Eve Baker
Publisher: 
St Pauls
ISBN 13: 
9780854395132
Paperback: 
120 pages

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

The international best-seller based on the profound spiritual concept of living in this moment and letting the past go and not worrying about the unknown future – which you can not control anyway. Living in the present moment is a basic spiritual concept of both Christian and Buddhist practices and gives great strength and perspective to anyone who achieves it. The writing and instructions on the practice of living in the present moment – the NOW of life – in this book are clear and accessible to all.

Author: 
Eckhart Tolle
Publisher: 
Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN 13: 
9780340733509
Paperback: 
224 pages

The Practice of the Presence of God

The happiest of spiritual guidance books! Written centuries ago by a modest monk in plain language, this little book explains how to live in the presence of God every minute of the day – not just when you pray but when you cook and scrub and go to your office and drive the car. This humble but holy man really got it right.

Author: 
Brother Lawrence
Publisher: 
Wilder
ISBN 13: 
9781604592498
Paperback: 
104 pages

The Rise of Western Christendom

In this excellent work of early Christian history, Peter Brown, Emeritus Professor of History at Princeton University, has written a classic study of the triumph and diversity of the early church from 200-1000 AD. He shows us how Christianity and the Church played a leading role in forming the culture, society, and politics of Europe. It is an unmatched study and should be included in every Christians essential reading list to develop a fuller understanding of the role their religion had in forming the world in which they presently live.  

Author: 
Peter Brown
Publisher: 
Wiley-Blackwell
Published: 
2013
ISBN 13: 
9781118301265
Paperback: 
659 pages

Selected Poems

The most beauty of Sufi mystics and one of the world’s great poets. No mind that seeks God should be without knowledge of this remarkable and gifted holy man.

Author: 
Rumi
Translator: 
Coleman Barks
Publisher: 
Penguin Classics
Published: 
2004
ISBN 13: 
9780140449532
Paperback: 
336 pages

Shinto: A Celebration of Life

This is an excellent book about the indigenous spirituality of the Japanese people.

That sentence expresses the single unifying ‘fact’ about Shinto, but telling us everything yet nothing about it because Shinto is multi-layered in nature with a notable absence of dogma. It is an ancient spiritual pathway which has adapted with ease to a modern, highly urban society which is the Japan of today. While having an organised religious practice, it is more importantly an attitude of mind or a sensibility that exists below the level of consciousness, shaping an individual’s thoughts and actions.

Shinto is a nature focused faith of sacred mountains and forests, which sees the divine in rocks and streams, communing with spirit worlds through twigs of bamboo and the evergreen sakaki tree. Yet, it is also the manicured suburban garden and the blades of grass that rise between cracks in city paving stones. It is a faith based around ritual cleansing and purification, but it has no concept of ‘sin’. It reveres ancestors, but thinks little about the after-life and asks its followers to live in and improve the present or living in the now which is very much popular spiritual concept in the West at the moment. Shinto can be also be seen as a local variant of universal spiritual motifs.

Author: 
Aidan Rankin
Publisher: 
Circle Books
ISBN 13: 
9781846944383
Paperback: 
176 pages

Techniques of Icon and Wall Painting: Egg Tempera, Fresco, Secco

A wonderful book that tells you in words and images what icons are really about and how you can create them. Here is all you really need whether you are an amateur or a professional who wants to embark on a new creative and deeply spiritual expression. This comprehensive and beautifully produced book on the techniques of icons and wall painting is lllustrated with over 450 color images and with a text by Aidan Hart, one of the world’s foremost icon painters, the book is worth every penny of its price. Both the author and the publisher is to be congratulated on this indispensable reference book.

Author: 
Aidan Hart
Publisher: 
Gracewing
ISBN 13: 
9780852442159
Hardback: 
517 pages

The Way of Thomas: Nine Insights for Enlightened Living from the Secret Sayings of Jesus

The author tells us about the discovery and subsequent history of this long lost gospel which is one of the earliest Christian documents. Devoid of the story material surrounding the sayings of Jesus which we find in the other established Gospels, the reader is invited to gain a new vision of Jesus through a text which concentrates on the sayings of Jesus rather than the stories. Many scholars now believe we have a document closer to Jesus’ actual words than we have ever possessed before. An interesting and stimulating book for Christians and those who long for a spiritual teacher but wish to make no commitment to an established religion.

Author: 
John R. Mabry
Publisher: 
Circle Books
ISBN 13: 
9781846940309
Paperback: 
196 pages

Toward a Positive Psychology of Religion: Belief Science in the Postmodern Era

Postmodernism is an intellectual movement which involves many fields of thinking from social and behavioural sciences to art and literature and, unlike religion, it is a movement which tolerates differences. It is considered non-concrete in that it allows us a variation of understandings of ethical problems. Postmodernism is the basic premises from which Robert Rocco Cottone in his book examines the contemporary concerns of tolerance in religions.

He finds in the Postmodernism Movement answers to such issues. He identifies and discusses twelve ethical principles which he believes reflect the ideals of religion in the post modern era. These includes loving relations, reverence for life, responsible parenthood and guardianship, respect for nature, optimism and faith that life persists through enduring relationships, freedom of thought, speech, and communication and freedom of religious expression.

Dr. Cottone is a Professor of Counseling and Family Therapy at the University of Missouri and is a leader in the postmodern religious movement.

Author: 
Dr Robert Cottone
Publisher: 
Circle Books
ISBN 13: 
9781846944291
Paperback: 
185 pages

The Way of the Shaman

The classic book about shaumanism and the way of the spirit world by a man who not only studied the subject but who made his own journey through this invisible realty.

Author: 
Michael Harner
Publisher: 
Harper Collins
ISBN 13: 
9780062503732
Paperback: 
205 pages

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