SILENT FIRE: An Invitation to Western Mysticism by Walter Holden & Wendy M. Wright--Eds. Capps

SILENT FIRE: An Invitation to Western Mysticism

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A lackluster presentation of some splendid material: an anthology of Christian mystical writings, from Augustine to Thomas Merton. (The subtitle promises too much; there's no room here for Plotinus, Blake, Buber, etc.) Capps and Wright, who teach religion at the University of California, Santa Barbara, get off on the wrong foot with a tedious Introduction, composed of an abstract schema and a rapid historical sketch. The schema makes a labored distinction between the ""unitive"" and ""transformative"" dimensions of mysticism, i.e., communion with God and its reverberations in the life of the mystic. The sketch rushes through 24 centuries of intellectual history, scattering names, dates, and doctrinal summaries as it goes. It claims that Augustine, rather than Paul, is the father of Western spirituality, but otherwise follows a reliable, if uninspiring, route. But then come the excerpts, from 31 authors, each with a helpful mini-preface by the editors. Brief and inconclusive as they are, the selections give an interesting glimpse of a great subject. They may well encourage readers to go back to the textual sources, or to seek out better, more advanced studies--the work, say, of Evelyn Underhill or E. A. Peers. But one has to begin somewhere, and since there's nothing quite like it on the market fight now, some readers may find the book rather inviting regardless.

Pub Date: Nov. 29th, 1978
Publisher: Harper & Row