Many cultural critics and Christian devotees of the Way of Jesus agree that the present day affluenza, constant warfare, terrorism, violence, and environmental destruction have resulted in a desert-like culture, a wasteland that brings death and desolation to everything around it. The philosopher Nietzsche said in his era, "the desert grows."
But the earnest devotion and rigorous use of spiritual practices by the desert Fathers and Mothers made the desert spaces of withering and decay into a place of renewal through solitude, meditation, and "turning about" from dry devastation to fruitful transformation. St. Benedict created a monastic life of prayer, learning, and labor which built sturdy bridges between the sacred and the profane, mysticism and prophecy, contemplation and action,
It is not too far a stretch to move from the desert spirituality of the monks of yesteryear to the dark and dangerous challenges which we all face in the desert character of modern culture animated by war mongering, consumerism, economic corruption, governmental ineptitude, addiction, and rampant greed.
Fred Dallmayr, Packey J. Dee Professor Emeritus in philosophy and political science at the University of Notre Dame, has chosen four pathfinders in the desert to provide the spiritual guidance we need to make it through these perilous and disturbing times. The author celebrates Paul Tillich's dialectical theology as a useful tool against the new barbarism which has overtaken us. Raimon Panikkar's holistic faith
and zeal for justice are inspirational given all the bad news on the media. Thomas Merton nurtures the seeds of contemplation within us and leads us down new paths of reverence and wonder with his ecumenical depth breadth. And, last but not least, Pope Francis shares with us glad tidings and the bounties of responsible global politics. As an added treat, Dallmayer opens our hearts by including chapters on Muslim and Buddhist mystics as fellow-travelers on this enlightening journey.