Journey to the Centre of the Soul. A handbook for explorers.
Andrew D. Mayes
Oxford: Bible Reading Fellowship, 2017
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Reviewed by Jill Need
Andrew Mayes was the Course Director at St. George’s College, Jerusalem several years ago and has led numerous pilgrimages to the Holy Land. He has also written several books using the Holy Land to spur ideas in spirituality. This latest one provides an exciting opportunity for an underground adventure of the soul. The basic idea is this: a number of metaphors from underground in the Holy Land provide ways into thinking about the life of the soul: caves, water, tunnels, cisterns, hidden rivers and buried treasure. Just as you descend into caves, tunnels and cisterns, so these metaphors help you descend into the deeper experiences of your soul. The book is a handbook for explorers, an ‘odyssey of the soul’.
Each chapter takes you to a location in the Holy Land to start you off. So, for example, the chapter on caves takes you to the cave of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem and the caves of desert monasteries. Then you’re invited into the ‘cave of the heart’. This leads to an examination of inner spiritual realities and stages of development.
Mayes draws on the Bible as well as on a wide variety of spiritual writers from across the Christian centuries, including the Cappadocian Fathers, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Catherine of Siena and the less well-known Angela of Foligno. Modern writers such as Matthew Fox, Richard Rohr and Rowan Williams also feature.
This book will help re-shape your spiritual life. Considering the importance of metaphors in our experience and understanding of God, Mayes asks questions such as: ‘What does God taste like?’, ‘What colour is your soul?’ and ‘Is my heart getting bigger?’. The final chapters take you into a ‘prophetic spirituality’ which leads the soul into a greater connectedness with creation, and then to a commitment to political action.
Mayes’ book is an exploration of the ‘geology of the soul’, reaching out in every direction. There are questions for discussion and Prayer Exercises help you delve deep underground! You’re bound to come away challenged and changed. Try it and see!
Featured in Bible Lands, Summer 2018