Jesus: The Teacher Within
Laurence Freeman, Canterbury Press
Laurence Freeman is captivated by Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?”
In facing up to this important question, he follows the path of meditation introduced to him by John Main in Ealing Abbey,West London.
To find his answer, he first of all needed to “find himself”. “The essential work of a spiritual leader is just this, not to tell us what to do but to help us see who we are.”
He does not offer a set of procedures to follow, as he believes that meditation is “less a technique than a way of life”. He shares his search with us as he traces his family background through his Irish mother to theIslandofBere, off the south west coast ofIreland.
He introduces each chapter with an incident during his visit to the island, in which he experiences a connection between ordinary day-to-day events and his spiritual journey.
“All religions share three basic elements: a liberating experience of truth, a tradition that interprets this formative experience and a set of rituals that derive from this.”
Contemplation, solitude and, as he terms it, “leaving self behind” do not isolate him from his dependence upon the rituals or traditions of the church.
However, through prayer and contemplation, we “see Jesus in the Spirit” to bring forgiveness, understanding and meaning in enacting out the Kingdom within.
This essentially personal and individual matter may be viewed as a purely subjective experience; so he attempts to fit this alongside traditional religious ceremony. “We cannot live by form alone, nor can we live without forms or structure.”
He seems to be going through a struggle here, as he clings to the basic forms of Baptism, Eucharist and the celebration ofMass.At the same time he lauds the lifestyle of the desert monks in their isolation and separation.
From more recent times, he envies the heroic stand of Simone Weil and of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in turning away from some of the traditional religious practices of their day.
It is worthwhile sharing the tension with Freeman. As Archbishop Rowan Williams describes it, Jesus: The Teacher Within is “a book that demands more than one reading”.