Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas to all my gracious readers—through all the darkness in the world, may this Christmas bring you light for the feast and in the year to come.

I have been meaning to write to recommend a book which is wonderful in everything but its title: Reclaiming Humility, by Jane Foulcher (Liturgical). Humility can't be claimed, much less reclaimed, but this is the book's only fault. It is scholarly without being pedantic and is so beautifully written that you have no sense of the usual dry scholarly monograph. Her research is impeccable and her insights original. Highly recommended.

Also, Breaking the Alabaster Jar: Conversations with Li-Young Lee, ed. Earl Ingersoll (BOA editions). Repetititive in places, but when Li-Young gets going he is full of silence and insight.

Finally, The Taste of Silence by Bieke Vandekerckhove, published by Liturgical Press. It is a down-to-earth treatment of pain, religion, meditation. She is well-known in Belgium: She has ALS (in remission) and is half-paralysed, and yet she has been ordained a zen master with the name “Light of Kenosis”. She is also deeply into Benedictine monastic spirituality.

In early January I will be going again on a 3-month retreat on a remote island in Scotland and will have virtually no access to internet—and no, I don't have a pub date yet for vol. 2. But I'm working on it. Slowly and painfully.

May your New Year be filled with joy to aid you in the fight against the darkness.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Wisdom from H.L. Mencken

The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. 
The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
− Henry Louis Mencken, writing for the Baltimore Evening Sun on 26 July 1920, in an article entitled "Bayard vs. Lionheart" and reprinted in the book ‘On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe.”

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Election 2016

Monday, October 24, 2016

"In Pursuit of Silence"

This award winning film will be screened in Oxford on All Saints' Day, November 1, at 6 PM at the Phoenix Cinema in Oxford (on Walton Street). Maggie Ross makes a brief appearance (!) and does some of the voice-overs.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Seasons of Death and Life Reprinted

I am happy to announce that my book Seasons of Death and Life: A Wilderness Memoir by Maggie Ross has been reprinted by Wipf and Stock. It is now available from Wipf and Stock customer service. In two weeks it will be available from, and in 6-8 weeks will be available from Amazon.

From the Flap Copy:

"Weary and wounded, yearning for deep solitude, Ross takes a job as caretaker in a place of luminous—sometimes terrifying—beauty on the northwest coast of the United States. Here she meets a local woman called Muskrat who becomes her companion and teacher. From a hard and unforgiving life, Muskrat has distilled impressive wisdom and an extraordinary, unselfconscious spirituality. Living out a generosity and loving-kindness born of suffering, she helps Ross find healing from damage inflicted by the abuse of power—damage that culminates in a life-threatening illness.

"Muskrat is not her only teacher. There are the dogs, Pomo and Kelly, and the bird, Raven, whose joyous play, tender and violent affection, mischief, and fidelity reveal a new vision of life during a long, slow convalescence.

"Ross receives healing, too, from the land, from the work necessary to its seasons, from the wildlife, which appears strangely unafraid, and from the small and large kindnesses of her rural neighbours. Like Henry David Thoreau and Annie Dillard, she describes landscapes of rare beauty that reveal the true meaning of sacrament, 'in the smallest wood orchid and the vast wildness of the sea....the last flimsy boundaries between sacred and secular melted away.'

"We emerge from this near-mythic tale—from its frustrations, its tragedies and epiphanies—illuminated, refreshed, with a new a vital perception of the sanctity of our common humanity, and of the importance of wildness as a context for the transfiguration of pain."

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Faithful Readers,

First of all, I apologise for my silence. I have been going through a creative wasteland. At some point I will come out the other side and resume this blog, but I can't say when.

Secondly, I apologise for anyone affected by the hack that sent more hacks to everyone on my private email list. If you opened it, be sure to change your password, check your trash (online gmail page) for missed emails, and under "settings" check for added filters/blocked email instructions and delete them.

May you be enfolded in the love of the blessed Trinity, whose feast we keep today.

PS If you were affected by the hack, your email may be going to the trash due to a filter that the hacker put on your settings. Here is the fix:

1. Log into your gmail account.
2. Go to “settings” which is in the menu that has the picture of the mechanical thingy (a cog? a nut?)
3. Go to “blocked accounts and filters”—it’s a tab at the top of the page
4. Each of these lists will have a tick box for any filters or blocked addresses. If there are any items you haven’t put in either of these lists then tick the box and to the right you will see a delete button. You probably have a filter that says “send all mail to trash”. Delete it.
5. Check the trash to see if you have missing email and if so move to inbox.
6. Change your password again.

Hope this helps

Monday, March 21, 2016

Review of "Silence: A User's Guide" by Louis Weil

Anglican Theological Review pp. 215-216, Vol. 98, No. 1, Winter 2016

Silence: A User’s Guide. Volume I: Process. By Maggie Ross. Eugene, Ore.: Cascade Books, 2014. xiii + 233 pp. [NB Published in the UK by Darton,Longman, Todd]

Rowan Williams’s foreword to this book refers to it as “the work of one of the most independent and ruthlessly realistic religious writers of our time.” Williams writes of “the current vocabulary of contemplative practice which can lure us into thinking that we are undertaking a set of tactics that will deliver commodities called spiritual experience” (p. ix). This book confronts much of what we have come to think of as Christian spirituality.

Regrettably, in recent years I have noted that even in theological bookstores the texts on spirituality generally embody an approach to spirituality which is rather like tending a hot-house plant, and of little value in shaping an authentic Christian spirituality grounded in the Incarnation. Maggie Ross’s new book is a radical response to such self-obsessed nonsense.

The sheer scope of Ross’s work gives the reviewer a challenging task: to adequately explore its riches would require another book. I must be content to point to its extraordinary significance. The book’s chapters range widely over the fundamental dimensions of Christian faith and practice through an intense focus on the recovery of an authentic spirituality in the context of the disintegrating world in which we live. The destructive bypath into which the human race has moved is leading us to annihilation; as the author writes, “The human race is sleepwalking into extinction” (p. 9).

The abrasive character of this phrase characterizes much of what Maggie Ross places before her readers, but it is intentionally abrasive in order to awaken us to the destructive aspects which she documents as the shaping forces in our world. From that, she calls us to the transformative power of “deep silence” as the ground of an authentic spirituality.

It is important to note that this is the first volume of what will be a two-volume work. The author writes: “To make this work affordable, we have split it into two volumes” (p. 8). But reader, beware! This one volume has more substance than most books twice its size, and its substance is profoundly challenging. I regret its lack of an index—at the very least an index of authors. It includes, however, a valuable bibliography, often of books that one does not generally find in publications on spirituality. The text develops around numerous and substantial quotations that contribute significantly to the development of the author’s purpose. At the heart of this complex book is the author’s central goal: “If we are to recover our balance—and our humanity—we need to unblock the flow of communication between the limited world of our self-consciousness that is linear, finite, two-dimensional, static, and dead, and our core silence—our deep mind—that is global, infinite, dynamic, and multi-dimensional” (pp. 13-14).

After a discussion in chapter 1 of how “deep silence” has been lost through developments in the church’s life, in the second chapter Ross [216] presents an analysis of what is, precisely, this “work of silence.” This is complemented later in the fourth chapter as the author speaks of the “two ways of knowing”: the linear way identified with the philosopher René Descartes, which she sees as having come to dominate Western society, and the way of knowing which is the work of “the deep mind.” Ross writes convincingly of the danger of overwhelming reliance upon only the Cartesian way of knowing. “The work of silence restores free exchange and mutual interdependence between the two ways of knowing, between the self-conscious mind and the deep mind” (p. 101). Silence offers access to the non-linear, deep mind and is thus a corrective to the “one-eyed view” that Ross believes “has a distorted theology, religion, and so-called spirituality, and worst of all, has given us the meaningless and voyeuristic word, mysticism” (p. 104).

The third chapter—“Language about Silence”—merits particular attention. It could well be published as a separate document on the vocabulary of spirituality. It offers a corrective to what Ross demonstrates as a consistently misleading use of terms in writings about the spiritual life. This chapter looks “at some of the words in circulation that are currently used and misused to discuss the texts frequently cited in the contemporary fashion for the study of so-called spirituality, for in the light of the two-ways-of-knowing model, these words take on very different nuances” (p. 67).

The final three chapters discuss how Western culture, and specifically Western Christianity, came to be trapped in the linear mind. These chapters round off the author’s challenging re-visioning of Christian spirituality, and lead readers to the threshold of her further exploration of the work of silence in the primary documents of the Christian tradition, which will be the content of the second volume.