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Mindful in a crisis

28 February 2012

Jenny Francis reads a syncretistic guide to questions of identity


In Case of Spiritual Emergency: Moving successfully through your awakening
Catherine G. Lucas

Findhorn Press £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9

AT FIRST sight, this book seems just another description of how one can be overwhelmed by an emotional or psychological crisis and, in recognising it as a potentially life-changing spiritual experience, grow through it to emerge wiser and richer.

This remarkable book, however, is the work of an author who affords readers glimpses of her own deep wounds, and shows how she navigated through her crisis by seeking and using insights derived from branches of modern psychology and ancient mystical wisdom. She also refers to others’ journeys through, what she terms, their “spiritual emergency”.

There are three parts. The first helpfully describes the process of spiritual awakening and how it may be identified as “spiritual emergency”. It includes a chapter on relevant medical and scientific research, in which Lucas tries to unite insights from contemporary psychology and ancient Eastern mysticism. She refers to the written works of various philosophers and religious across the centuries, from St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross to Jung, R. D. Laing, and others from Asia less well known to UK readers. The third section deals mainly with practicalities such as looking after oneself, links with work, and health professionals.

This author has travelled far to discover and embrace facets of ancient wisdom and modern psy­chiatry. She is obviously comfortable in working within personal, spiritual frameworks, and using them to reach a new identity. It is not clear whether she has any Christian beliefs underpinning her outlook, but, suffice it to say, committed Christian readers might feel uncomfortable with her syncretist approach.

That Catherine Lucas values contemporary multi-ethnic and multifaith clinicians’ capacity to draw on this synthesis of East and West in the holistic treatment of spiritual disease and mental illness is beyond doubt. She is convinced that “mindfulness” is the best tool to use. For her, the freedom to be “totally in the present is extraordinarily liberating”.

Christians may recognise, even prefer, echoes of the Apostle Paul, always content, convinced that God “is for us”, and that his redemptive love is all that we ever need to sustain us through life’s “changes and chances”.

The Revd Jenny Francis is a psychotherapist in Exeter diocese.

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