Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from BN.com
Buy Used
Buy Used from BN.com
(Save 40%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 90%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (26) from $1.99   
  • New (8) from $11.83   
  • Used (18) from $1.99   


"A rich book covering many areas of human experience. . . . For the person looking for an intelligent and clear presentation of the relationship between psychological and spiritual growth, this is the book to read.'—America

A noted psychiatrist provides a new understanding of spirituality and psychology.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062505828
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/28/1987
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 329,518
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Gerald G. May, M.D. (1940-2005), practiced medicine and psychiatry for twenty-five years before becoming a senior fellow in contemplative theology and psychology at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Bethesda, Maryland. He was the author of many books and articles blending spirituality and psychology, including Addiction and Grace, Care of Mind/Care of Spirit, Will and Spirit, and The Dark Night of the Soul.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Will and Spirit

Chapter One

Willingness and Willfulness

I don't know Who -- or what -- put the question. I don't know when it was put. I don't even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone -- or Something -- and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.
-- Dag Hammarskjold

We All have secrets in our hearts. I will tell you one of mine. All my life I have longed to say yes, to give myself completely, to some Ultimate Someone or Something. I kept this secret for many years because it did not fit the image I wanted to present -- that of an independent, self-sufficient man. The desire to surrender myself had been at least partially acceptable when I was a child, but as a man I tried to put away childish things. When I became a physician, and later a psychiatrist, it was still more difficult to admit -- even to myself -- that something in me was searching for an ultimate self-surrender.

Society, to say nothing of medical and psychiatric training, had taught me to say no rather than yes, to try to determine my own destiny rather than give myself, to seek mastery rather than surrender. For a long time, I tried to believe that I could learn enough and strengthen my will enough to take complete charge of my own life, but it never quite seemed to work.

I remember looking at some of my colleagues once, shortly after my psychiatric training, and feeling deeply disturbed. They appeared to know what they were doing in life. They acted as if they knew whatlife was all about and how it should be lived, whereas I, in spite of all my education, was filled with more questions and uncertainties than ever.

At one point I even entertained the absurd thought that I had perhaps missed some specific chapter in some psychiatric text, the chapter that really explained things. My colleagues appeared to have read it, but somehow I had missed the assignment. There was also the possibility that my inability to master life resulted from deep-seated psychological problems. My father had died when I was quite young. Maybe I was still seeking a Big Daddy in the sky to take care of me.

But there are definite advantages to growing older, and as the years went by it became obvious that though many of my colleagues were still trying to master their destinies and acting as if they were being successful at it, they really weren't doing much better than I. More importantly, I was blessed with being in a profession "where people came and shared their heart-secrets with me. I discovered that many persons struggle with the same tensions of saying no and saying yes, of mastery and mystery, of self-determination and self-surrender, Further, it became clear that psychology and psychiatry, though they can be immensely helpful, do not and cannot explain everything. There are limits to the psychological universe, and one must go beyond those limits to seek answers to the deepest questions of life.

Now I no longer see my desire for self-surrender as a problem. Instead, it seems to be the wellspring of my deepest hope. But there are still many questions. To whom or to what does one surrender? And how? What effect does true surrender have on personal freedom and individual will? Some surrenders are no good at all. In fact, many are terribly destructive. Even if it is God to whom I surrender, how can I trust that this God is true and good and will not abandon me? How can I trust that this God is not of my own making? And even if all else is well, how can I respond to my heart's call to surrender when the rest of me cries out, "No, you must run your own life"?

I do not pretend to have arrived at all the answers to these kinds of questions, but I think I have gained some perspective on them. They have to do with mind and soul, with psychology and religion, with will and spirit. Each human being is an indefinable and marvelously mysterious person, a soul reflecting endless facets and dimensions. Will and spirit are two of these dimensions. They are not "things" as much as processes or activities. In a very deep way, will and spirit are interdependent and, I assume, basically at one. But they often appear to be in conflict, even at war.

It seems to me that spirit has something to do with the energy of our lives, the life-force that keeps us active and dynamic. Will has more to do with personal intention and how we decide to use our energies. Spirit, for me, has a quality of connecting us with each other, with the world around us, and with the mysterious Source of all. In contrast, will has qualities of independence, of personal freedom, and of decision making.

Sometimes it seems that will moves easily with the natural flow of spirit, and at such times we feel grounded, centered, and responsive to the needs of the world as they are presented to us. This may happen in times of great crisis, when we forget about our personal agendas and strivings and work in true concert with ourselves and others. Or it may happen quietly, with a spontaneous sense of being fully, actively, responsively present to life. At such times, it is indeed as if something in us had said yes. Then, at least for a moment, we are whole.

There are other times when will seems to pull away from spirit, trying to chart its own course. This may happen when we feel selfconscious or when we are judging ourselves harshly. Or it may occur when we are afraid or desirous of something.

Will and Spirit. Copyright © by Gerald G. May. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)