Visions of Daniel

Meditation without Myth


Papers link


The times are in turmoil. Culture wars rage. At stake are spiritual matters-the beliefs and values that structure people's lives.

Historians tell us that, in periods of social unrest, opposing trends tend to emerge. A conservative political force tries to shore up the status quo, to hold back change, to stop the dizzying spin of novelty. The fundamentalism of our age exemplifies this trend. On the other hand, creative interest in spirituality also mushrooms. People question their beliefs. They rethink their values. They explore new religions, study arcane metaphysical systems, and engage in varied spiritual practices. People dig deep into themselves and into life to try and find new meaning, new purpose, a new vision of things.

My emphasis has been the spiritual-not because of my recent role in the current culture wars, but because of a natural propensity with which I grew up and because of my early commitment to a vocation in the Catholic priesthood. As a theologian and a psychology professor-with a Ph.D. in each field-as well as a sincere seeker, over the years I did considerable work to understand and grow in the spiritual life. Now my personal quest is dovetailing with the historical trend, and I am in a position to make some possible contribution. By sharing my spiritual insight, I might serve as a guide to others whom the changing times have forced onto the spiritual path.

With this book I make my offering. In three prior books I treated this material in extensive technical detail: Spiritual Development: An Interdisciplinary Study (Loyola University Press, 1987), The Human Core of Spirituality: Mind as Psyche and Spirit (State University of New York Press, 1996), and Religion and the Human Sciences: An Approach via Spirituality (State University of New York Press, 1998). Here I make a popular presentation that speaks to a broad audience.

Oftentimes more a psychologist than a theologian, I focus on the inner human workings of meditation and spiritual growth. My uncommon goal is to forge a true science of spirituality. Yet I couch this analysis in a broader context that includes belief in God and the practice of religion. This thoroughly humanistic analysis with a natural opening to theology is, I believe, unique. The emphasis within Buddhism is the closest parallel, yet Buddhism has no concern for the questions about God that characterize Western religions. And Western approaches to this topic tend to focus on the divine, rather than the human, and, indeed, often identify the two. I cleanly sort out the psychological and the theological and then interrelate them. In the process I apply the best of contemporary psychology and invoke the teachings of mystics throughout the ages. I know of no other approach that maintains this delicate balance.

My focus is our common humanity and its spiritual core. My vision is a global community. Thus, I address spiritual seekers of all religions and denominations, and not only religious folk but also the spiritually sensitive who have no interest in organized religion. What I present is the spiritual dimension of the human experience itself, so my emphasis relates to the daunting challenge presented by a globalizing world of pluralism and diversity in the twenty-first century. Indeed, as the religious traditions have always held, profound spirituality taps into an underground stream that links the whole human race and flows into a pervasive transcendent reality. With this book I want to help people touch this reality and connect with all humanity.

I first presented this material for a silent meditation retreat in January, 2002. I am grateful to Gay Spirit Visions of Atlanta, and especially King Thackston (R.I.P.), for the invitation to lead that retreat. The topic of meditation proved exceedingly useful. Although a practical matter, something to be done, meditation opens onto most of the psychological and theological issues at stake in the spiritual life. So the focus on meditation allows this book to address essential spiritual issues in a concrete manner.

And I am grateful to you, my dear readers, for your willingness to attend to my words and thoughts. May this book be of benefit to you. Together, grounded in what is most noble and worthy in the human soul, may we find a common vision to sustain us and our world.