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The Art of Peace: Life lessons from Christian mystics, by David Cole

24 September 2021

Anne Spalding reviews spiritual counsel from the mystical tradition

DAVID COLE brings together writings, ancient and contemporary, under the themes of Stillness, Silence, Solitude, and Sanctuary. He starts with the need for stillness, drawing on Evelyn Underhill, Thomas Merton, Julian of Norwich, and Brother Lawrence, and inviting readers to slow down and stop intentionally, in order to “go and be”.

This invitation seems to be particularly for those who have not previously tried stillness, silence, and contemplation. The author’s style is colloquial, and he mostly uses “the Divine”, in case “God” carries unhelpful images. Similarly, scriptural quotes are often from contemporary versions such as the Passion Translation, so that scripture can be read with fresh eyes.

Cole next describes the pursuit of silence to find the Divine presence, and the part played by listening in “the sound of sheer silence” (like Elijah). He also introduces the practice of wordlessness in God’s presence; the need to move away from the limitations of language to be with the one who is indescribable. Drawing on the Desert Fathers and Mothers, Cole goes on to focus on solitude in the cell. This is balanced with being “alone together”, which he illustrates with the Way of Life in his own (dispersed) community, the Community of Aidan and Hilda.

Lastly, Cole acknowledges that sometimes we need refuge or sanctuary, and explores reasons for this from Meister Eckhart, the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, St John of the Cross, and Anthony de Mello. He advocates finding sanctuary in the Divine presence within. Cole also recognises that many find closeness to the Divine in the natural world, describing this with writings from the Eastern Orthodox tradition and elsewhere.

To me, the various writings felt like a patchwork rather than a whole, but there is good material to explore, and references are provided for anyone wishing to follow up on a particular theme.

Dr Anne Spalding is a member of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis, and lives in Suffolk.


The Art of Peace: Life lessons from Christian mystics
David Cole
BRF £8.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.10

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