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The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality

Overview

Interweaving a memoir of his mother's long struggle with Alzheimer's and cancer, meditations on his own wilderness experience, and illuminating commentary on the Christian "via negativa"--a mystical tradition that seeks God in the silence beyond language--Lane rejects the easy affirmations of pop spirituality for the the harsher, more profound truths can wilderness can teach. Photos.
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The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality : Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality

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Overview

Interweaving a memoir of his mother's long struggle with Alzheimer's and cancer, meditations on his own wilderness experience, and illuminating commentary on the Christian "via negativa"--a mystical tradition that seeks God in the silence beyond language--Lane rejects the easy affirmations of pop spirituality for the the harsher, more profound truths can wilderness can teach. Photos.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Deserts doubling as both reality and symbol are the heroes of these memorable reflections on the interplay between nature and spirit. Lane (Theological Studies and American Studies/St. Louis Univ.) offers a modern contribution to the ancient tradition of apophatic (or negative) theologyþthe teaching that nothing can literally be said of God. The precursors he cites include the desert fathers, Meister Eckhart, and the anonymous author of the 14th-century Cloud of Unknowing. The paradox of apophatic teaching is in its sustained expression: How to describe the indescribable over enough pages to make a book? The answer is through metaphor, and Lane's are apt and effective. Against the austere backdrop of the most abstract theological tradition in Christendom he paints the pictures of his personal visits to, among other places, Mount Sinai, a desert monastery in New Mexico, and the nursing home where his mother is dying. His point is that the "fierce landscapes" of the title mirror the conceptual emptiness of both the unimaginable God and the ends of our own lives. Like all good symbols, the Sinai desert and the dying mother lose nothing, in Lane's descriptions, of their own concrete and affecting reality, even as they figure the silencing transcendence of God. The upshot is a happy one for both spirituality and the reader: Pushed by God, deserts, and death to the limits of human life, the spiritual seeker is relieved of worry over her own anxious egoþ"the things that ignore us save us"þand the reader, in turn, comes away soothed by a fine illustration of the intimate connection there can be between abstract ideas and the daunting realities of life. In the vastdesert of pop spirituality, Lane's book is an oasis. (5 photos, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195315851
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/1/2007
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 492,046
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Belden C. Lane is Professor of Theological Studies and American Studies, St. Louis University and the author of Landscapes of the Sacred: Geography and Narrative in American Spirituality. He lives in St. Louis.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
List of Illustrations
Permissions
Introduction 3
1 Connecting Spirituality and the Environment 9
Pt. I Purgation: Emptiness in a Geography of Abandonment 23
2 Places on the Edge: Wild Terrain and the Spiritual Life 37
3 Prayer Without Language in the Mystical Tradition: Knowing God as "Inaccessible Mountain" - "Marvelous Desert" 62
Pt. II Illumination: Waiting in a Silence Beyond Language 87
4 The Sinai Image in the History of Western Monotheism 100
5 Sinai and Tabor / Mountain Symbolism in the Christian Tradition 124
Pt. III Union: Love as the Fruit of Indifference 149
6 Desert Catechesis: The Landscape and Theology of Early Christian Monasticism 160
7 Attentiveness, Indifference, and Love: The Countercultural Spirituality of the Desert Christians 186
Conclusion: Rediscovering Christ in the Desert 216
Epilogue 231
Notes 233
Index 275
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