Christine Valters Paintner is the online abbess for Abbey of the Arts, a virtual monastery offering classes and resources on contemplative practices and creative expression. The author of eight books on monasticism and creativity, she leads pilgrimages in Ireland, Austria, and Germany and online retreats. She is profiled in Spirituality & Practice's Living Spiritual Teachers Project.

We each carry instinctual and universal patterns of thought developed through the centuries. These archetypes show up in many different cultures and traditions and each one has a shadow side and a light side. Paintner appreciates the expressive arts and in this paperback, she delineates their capacities to awaken energies, sense the movements of the Spirit in our lives, and provide maps for the inner life.

In order to access this journey, the author has selected twelve monks and mystics who illustrate archetypes:

  • Francis of Assisi as The Fool
  • King David as The Sovereign
  • Mary as The Mother
  • Dorothy Day as The Orphan
  • Amma Syncletica as The Warrior
  • Brigid of Kildare as The Healer
  • Brendan the Navigator as The Pilgrim
  • Benedict of Nursia as The Sage
  • Miriam as The Prophet
  • Rainer Maria Rilke as The Artist
  • Hildegard of Bingen as The Visionary
  • Thomas Merton as The Monk

The chapters on each archetypes follow this pattern: an introduction to the monk or mystic, a description of the archetype, reflections on what we can apply to our own experiences from this archetype, practices to reinforce the learnings, and a closing blessing.

In the chapter on Hildegard of Bingen (1008 - 1179), for example, Paintner probes this saint as a visionary who offers us "fresh images of the divine presence in the world and calls us to see things anew." Hildegard honors intuition and the possibilities that hover on the horizon. We are impressed by the practical resources in this chapter on the practice of yielding, meditation as a means of connecting with your inner visionary, nature mandalas, and understanding the transfiguration story in the Bible.

We are especially touched by the closing blessing in the chapter on Thomas Merton and the Monk archetype:

"May you feel the knot of questions in your mind untangle and slip away. May you discover what silence wants to whisper to you. And as we depart company for now, may you remember this company of kindred souls as a source of solace in the days to come. May you remember the inner community inviting you into the great and cosmic dance."