Listen to the Desert
Gregory Mayers “Listen to the Desert: Secrets of Spiritual Maturity from the Desert Fathers and Mothers” [Liguori Publications, 1996]
“The 1500-year-old spiritual philosophy known as “Desert Wisdom” offers a compelling resource for facing contemporary challenges.
Gregory Mayer presents this ancient thought and lifestyle by introducing traditional Wisdom Stories in which characters, actions, and sayings address deep, universal human needs. The lessons emerge from what the author calls “experiencing the wall in life…the emptiness that drains off the meaning and joy of living.”
These writings, direct accounts of desert monastic life gathered and used by the monks themselves, are brief, loosely connected passages that range in length from a few sentences to a page or two. The stories are followed by Mayers’ provocative interpretations that blend contemporary psychology and contemplative practice with wisdom traditions around the world.
Readers with special interest in the evolution of spiritual consciousness, as well as those who want to look into monastic wisdom for the first time, will find much here to nourish and enlighten their way.”
“An excellent work! Gregory Mayers weds the wisdom of the desert to contemporary depth psychology and achieves genuine insight into the process and reality of contemplative practice and living. One comes away understanding some of the depth of wisdom contained in the sayings of the desert Abbas and Ammas selected, and just how contemporary it is as well. This is not a matter of psychobabble, but a sophisticated understanding of what monastic life calls the true vs the false self, the drama and psychology of object relations, the need and struggle to let go of an ego-self, etc. It is true that this is not the book for someone who wants a superficial introduction to the piety of the desert Fathers, or who needs the profound linkages between the sayings and the underlying psychology spelled out in detail. Despite what it says on the back cover, it is better suited, perhaps, to those who have spent time meditatively with these sayings, appreciate their wisdom on a first-hand basis, and now wish to understand the psychology of the matter a little better. Like most things which are really simple (instead of merely simplistic), the sayings serve as doorways to a reality which is really complex and/or mysterious (too big to comprehend all at once). Look for something like John Chryssavgis’, “In the Heart of the Desert” or, Waddell’s “The Desert Fathers”, or, as another commentator mentioned, Merton’s, “The Wisdom of the Desert”, if you desire something with more implicit psychological dimensions and more traditional spiritual language. On the other hand, use this as an intro if you are going to delve further into the psychological dimensions of contemplative life.”
Sister Laurel M. O’Neal, Er Dio
Fr. Gregory Mayers, C.Ss.R., is a Redemptorist priest and the resident meditation teacher at Mercy Center, Burlingame, California.