Reviewed by Elizabeth JOHNS, History of Art Department, University of Pennsylvania, PHILADELPHIA, PA 19152
This new edition of the book Jones originally published in 1982 is as valuable now as it was then. His original intention was to provide guidelines for spiritual directors at a time when the art of spiritual direction was being "revived." Now, almost two decades later, with more and more people giving and receiving spiritual direction, the book is notable for the classic formulations it presents. As Jones puts it time and again, fundamental to spiritual direction are two points: God wants our companionship, and in responding to it, we need companionship with our fellow Christians.
Just what does the process involve as we respond to God's love? Jones sets forth his analysis with powerful metaphors that reach to the depth of our experience. The first is that life is a battle. As Jones puts it, "Our hunger for God is such that we will go to any lengths either to satisfy or repress it" (p. 20). Our enemies are not only the conventional ones of separate sins, but the almost inexplicable tendency we have to devalue ourselves. In this, we turn away from God. Emphasizing the false claims of easy happiness by sellers in the "spiritual supermarket," Jones argues that spiritual direction defines each human being as one "who is loved by Christ," and he uses the memorable phrase "the Christology of humanity" (p. 41). In addition to warfare, Jones also develops the metaphors of pilgrimage and sacrifice, with each one drawing on classic teaching and many kinds of experiences. He enriches his text with allusions to the spiritual wisdom of several traditions, citing among many others Raimundo Panikkar, Teresa of Avila, Carl Jung, W. H. Auden and Graham Greene.
Jones defines a remarkable number of classic Christian concepts in clear terms, and he interweaves these concepts into his explanations of what can happen in spiritual direction. These are broad definitions. One could say they are particularly Protestant, but this would be too narrow an evaluation. They open the terms to fulfillment in the daily lives of all Christians. For instance, he defines a priest as "the one who sees the whole of creation as the theater of God's activity" (p. 145). He discusses the three-fold vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience (pp. 79-84) and shows how these vows can be fulfilled in all Christian lives. He analyzes freedom in many different contexts (note especially p. 107) and devotes an entire chapter to contemplation (p. 117-132).
Jones is especially concerned about the relation between spiritual direction and psychotherapy and his distinctions are quite helpful. Indicating that persons are not ready for spiritual direction until they know themselves quite well, Jones sees practitioners of spiritual direction and psychotherapy as working in awareness of the dynamics of the unconscious, transference, and heightened consciousness. They both work "to help the people who come to them be as free as possible from illusions about themselves and the world in which they live" (p. 48). Spiritual direction, however, takes place in the context of a community of believers, a community devoted to "mutuality, grace, and worship" (p. 64). As he puts it precisely in one place: "The value of modern psychology is that it leaves us with the hope that we can really grow and change. What psychology does not do is to help us choose the direction that growth and change should take" (54). In this regard, Jones designates spiritual directors as companions, not experts. As members of the worshipping community, their experience of their own weaknesses and their awareness of their own need for God's unfailing grace enable them to be present to the desires, confusions, and hopes of their directees.
This beautiful book is affirmative, direct, and encouraging. Jones's convictions that God loves us utterly, and that we love each other in response, form an ever-welcome leit motif. The book would be invaluable for spiritual directors at any point in their careers, whether for an overview for the newcomer or a refreshing confirmation for the experienced director. It would also encourage the Christian who is considering spiritual direction.