Anselm Grun, a monk and psychologist known for his many volumes on Benedictine life, has written a fascinating and soul-stirring book about the early Christian ascetics who pioneered what he calls "a spirituality from below." They moved through self-knowledge to the Divine. Or as Grun puts it: "When we find the courage to climb down into our own passions they lead us up to God."
The sayings of the Desert Fathers are like manna in the wilderness to anyone interested in the practice of everyday spirituality. Grun analyzes the disciplines they emphasized: staying by oneself, being humble, keeping silence, working through temptations, analyzing one's thoughts and feelings, dealing with passion, using an external order to facilitate inner growth, keeping death before one's eyes, being contemplative, and practicing gentleness.
The Desert Fathers believed that any soul searching is not narcissistic but is done for the healing of the world: "On the small site of their cells they do waste removal for the world by cleaning up anger and resentment. That way they create a purer atmosphere, an atmosphere of love and compassion." Their message for modern times: By disarming and dispelling our negative thoughts and selfish ways, we are making the world a less toxic place. This extraordinary resource has been translated by Peter Heinegg.