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January 2012 Vol 51 no 1


DREAMING DREAMS AND SEEING VISIONS

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Contents

Dominion, Power and the Kingdom of God: Reflections on Spiritual Ecology

The book of Genesis portrays human beings as having been given dominion over the whole world and everything in it by the creator God. Some have seen this as justifying complicity among followers of the Judaeo-Christian tradition in the misuse of natural resources and the destruction of the environment. Nathan Stone issues a call for a very different understanding of the relationship we need to have with the created order.

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Evelyn Underhill Revisited

2011 marked the centenary of the publication of Mysticism, Evelyn Underhill’s most famous work. In the first half of the twentieth century she was one of the most widely-read authors on the spiritual life. Harvey Egan here introduces us to the life and writings of a woman who, while denying that she was herself a mystic, undoubtedly exhibited ‘a sympathetic comprehension of the mystical life’.

Learning that Is Not Taught: Spirituality and the Dreams of Children

Dreams have been seen by many throughout history as an important source of spiritual insight, although their meaning and relevance have often been contested. Gerard Condon, a diocesan adviser for religious education in Ireland, here presents the findings of a scientific study carried out on the dreams of children, looking for signs of ‘latent spirituality’. He finds these not simply in the rare and extraordinary, but also in the ‘every-night’ dreams that the children recount.

Justice: An Ignatian Perspective

In 1974 the Society of Jesus committed its members to a ‘service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement’. Justin Glyn offers a description of what justice of this kind, rooted in the divine love for the world and all its peoples, might look like. He considers how one could judge that such justice was being done, and situates this vision at the core of Christian faith.

What Sense Does ‘Scientific Research’ Have for Us?

There are still people who hold that science and faith are incompatible, and that it is thus impossible for one individual to be, with intellectual integrity, both a scientist and a religious believer. Here, in an article translated from the French Jesuit spirituality journal Christus, Philippe Deterre argues that on the contrary, the impulse to engage in pure science is not only necessary to society, but also one that can find strong support in the Christian biblical tradition.

Epiphany: A Glimpse Into Eternity

The term ‘epiphany’ covers the wide variety of ways in which God chooses to become known, in the lives of individuals as well as in the wider world. Beginning with the annual cycle of the Christian liturgy, Robert Doud looks at how this idea, rich in image and association, can lead to a deeper appreciation of a transcendent God who despite a long history of self-disclosure will ultimately remain a mystery beyond our total comprehension.

Corporal Penance: Its Meaning Today

In past centuries writing on spirituality included much on the need for bodily penance, as a way to discipline and curb human tendencies to sin. With the deeper understanding of psychology gained in recent decades a great deal of this traditional ‘wisdom’ has become suspect. Josep Rambla demonstrates that nevertheless much that Ignatius of Loyola had to say on this topic can still speak usefully to a contemporary audience.

Book Reviews

on Catholic Social Teaching
on a new biography of Alister Hardy
on the history of sin
on spirituality and ageing
on a new book of essays by James Alison
on a reappraisal of the Gnostics
on the Church in Ireland
on theology and disability
on a new biography of Newman
on praying with the Psalms
on early Christianity
on psychosis and spirituality

From the Foreword

THE PROPHET JOEL hears God promise that a day will come when God’s Spirit will be poured out on all people with such power that ‘your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions’ (Joel 2:28). On the day of Pentecost Peter uses these same words to explain to the crowd what is happening in the apostles’ preaching. For Christian believers, our era is one in which dreams and visions can convey the message of God powerfully to those ready to hear it. This issue of The Way presents and seeks to interpret a variety of such dreams and visions.

Nathan Stone works in Brazil, among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon region. He dreams of a world of ecological sustainability, free of the pollution, deforestation and climate change brought about by human activity. He believes that Christianity has the resources to help people face the difficult choices that are needed to achieve this dream. And he calls on those who read his words to ally themselves with all others who are striving to bring this dream into being. His piece is neatly complemented by that of Justin Glyn, who asks of a faith committed to the implementation of justice how it will know when that justice is truly coming into being.

In a technological age, change is hardly to be brought about without the application of science. Facing down those who believe that science and religious faith are necessarily incompatible, Philippe Deterre shows not only that pure scientific research, unconstrained by the immediate demands of commercial applicability and financial return, is as necessary as it has ever been, but also that inspiration for such an approach can be found in the scriptures. Gerard Condon’s article describing a study of the dreams of children offers an insight into this kind of ‘impractical’ science, here pointing to the existence of what the author describes as ‘latent spirituality’. Josep M. Rambla shows how psychological research in the twentieth century has helped lead to a renewed understanding of corporal penance of the kind that Ignatius of Loyola outlined in his Spiritual Exercises.

The seeing of visions, of course, can also be directly spiritual and literal. Evelyn Underhill approached mysticism not as a scientific observer but as one prepared to be deeply affected by what she encountered. A century after the publication of her most famous work, Harvey D. Egan revisits her life and her writings to look at what they might have to say to contemporary proponents of mystical prayer. Mystical revelations have traditionally been seen within Christianity as one mode of God’s self-revelation, and Robert Doud’s article places these in the broader context of ‘epiphanies’ to be discovered in scripture, in liturgy and in the religious experience enjoyed by believers in the context of their everyday lives.

‘You’ve gotta have a dream; if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?’ The question posed in South Pacific is a central one to Ignatian spirituality. It is no mistake that Ignatius took his first steps in learning discernment by day-dreaming his way through his recuperation at Loyola after the injury he received defending Pamplona. Would he serve a fair lady who was in reality out of his league; or would he outdo Francis, Dominic and the other saints he read about? Dreams offer both a vision of how my world could be, and the motivating power I need to bring it to reality. May this edition of The Way feed your dreams of an unpolluted planet, a just society or a mystical vision of God. And may it inspire you to take whatever steps you need to in order to move towards achieving them.

Paul Nicholson SJ

 

 

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