“Foundations in Spiritual Direction: Sharing the Sacred Across the Traditions” Beverly Lanzetta (Sebastopol, CA: Blue Sapphire Books, 2019)Reviewed by Glenda Prosser
Beverly Lanzetta, theologian, contemplative scholar, teacher, author, and interfaith chaplain is also an avowed monk living in the world. Previous books include Radical Wisdom: A Feminist Mystical Theology; Nine Jewels of Night: One Soul’s Journey into God; and The Monk Within: Embracing a Sacred Way of Life. Her latest book, Foundations in Spiritual Direction, is the second of her “Monk Within” series.
The aim of the Monk Within series is to cultivate monastic consciousness beyond the monastic enclosure and outside traditional denominations. Lanzetta postulates a four-fold path: the mystical path of the feminine, embodied spirituality, the monastic archetype, and the interdependence of the world’s wisdom traditions expressed through interfaith, interspiritual dialogue.
Lanzetta has been a spiritual guide for over 40 years and is the founder of an interfaith spiritual direction program. Foundations in Spiritual Direction was originally devised as an online course which would replicate for participants the experience of receiving spiritual guidance – specifically being listened to and sharing with another. It is a very attractive workbook with illustrations by Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) and original illustrations by the author.
The stated aim of the book is to offer “a clear and spiritually meaningful introduction to the history, theory and practice” of spiritual direction from an interfaith context. It is aimed at the person who considers themselves to be “spiritual but not religious” as an introduction to the wisdom of the diverse religious traditions. The book is designed to “encourage a more holistic relationship between reader and author that mirrors . . . the sharing of souls” by the use of images and colourful design.
Topics cover the foundations and models of spiritual direction, some methods of fostering contemplation, mystical anthropology, various visions of the soul in the traditions, the inner life and religious experience and the role of the spiritual director. There is space at the end of each section and chapter for the reader to answer questions and journal – this is a workbook designed to foster growth in self-knowledge.
Foundations in Spiritual Direction differs from other introductions to spiritual direction in its interfaith approach. The reader is introduced to Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Chinese, Shamanic, Sufi, and the Celtic Soul Friend approach to spiritual direction; to Eastern Orthodox, Buddhist, Muslim, Indian, and Jewish methods of fostering Contemplation, along with Centering Prayer, Hesychast Prayer, and the author’s own Inner Monastery Meditation practice.
Foundations in Spiritual Direction: Sharing the Sacred Across the Traditions is a basic introduction to interfaith spiritual direction. As someone with limited interfaith experience, I found it a useful introduction to some of the differences in approach to prayer (methods and goals), differing anthropologies, and unique terminologies in the various faiths.
The workbook sections were helpful as I was able to record my own responses to the material I was introduced to, but I do not consider it an adequate basis from which to offer interfaith spiritual direction.
However, it may be that the third and fourth books in the series (A New Silence: Spiritual Practice and Formation for the Monk Within; and A Feast of Prayers: Daily Devotions to Holy Mystery, both to be published in 2020) will fill in some of the gaps left for me after working through this book.