Patheos bloggers are offered the opportunity to read and review news books form time to time. A Season of Mystery by Paula Huston caught my eye because its subject matter is spiritual practice for the second half of life. Since I teach spiritual practice and am in life’s second half, I was curious.
The book is written from a decidedly traditional Christian perspective. This is evidenced by Huston’s introduction where she suggests that getting old is about preparing for the next life, the one Jesus assures us is there when he, or whoever it was that wrote the passage which is another whole story, offered up the vision of those many mansions in his Father’s house. She assumes of course, a kind of literal rather than say a mystical interpretation of that text.
Consistent with her traditional perspective, Huston is critical of humanity’s “frantic effort to achieve all our goals before we die.” In a remarkably sweeping generalization, we’re told we don’t need to use supplements, pharmaceuticals, and hormone replacement therapy. We don’t need to go to the gym or find a guru. Our “this-worldly” orientation needs to be corrected because in the life to come we already have a room assigned with our name on it – assuming we “believe” of course.
I suspect many of us who read introductions before purchasing a book will put this one back on the shelf, which is really too bad because once you get past Huston’s particular perspective and her tendency to see right and wrong as black and white rather than shades of grey, Huston’s 10 Practices are quite useful. Useful because they enrich us on this life’s spiritual journey, a journey that opens our hearts to the evolutionary unfolding of Spirit’s work in our lives. Each one of the practices is offered through a poignant story about either herself or others in her life.
In addition, A Season of Mystery draws heavily on the wisdom of Christian mystics, past and present. Since many Christians are unfamiliar with the mystics, the book serves as a delightful introduction to the wisdom of the saints and sages who have given so much to those of us on the spiritual journey.
For me, that journey is an unfolding that takes place over years of time. Gradually we let go of the worldview that says, “he who has the most toys wins;” we come to see that visions of a place called heaven are part and parcel of a worldview that included a flat earth with a dome called “sky” separating us from the realm of the gods. Gradually we learn to accept, surrender, and express gratitude for the deep mystery that drives the creation of beauty forward. But gradual is the key word here, for the spiritual journey is an evolutionary journey. Spirit has been at this for 13.7 billion years or so. In the face of the enormity of that creative project I wonder if we’d be better served by practices that allow us to recognize mystery rather than reducing it to an ancient story.