Reviewed by John Cowan
Michael Resman is a Quaker living in the Rochester, Minnesota area. He belongs to a group of Quaker mystics. A couple of decades ago he had the experience of being drawn into heaven, and although that was not repeated he has had many experiences of the divine since.
Perhaps because he had no one to discuss these with, no help in discerning his call, no comfort in acknowledgement of their basic truthfulness, (I do not know but guess) now for the sake of others he freely lays his heart on the table. For that he deserves respect and care.
As I read his stream of experiences I have no reason to doubt that they are real to him, and while I am a distance from him these experiences seem possible to me, for the most part. One at least does not. Fortunately, I am not the designated decider on this.
Much of the book is advice for the seeker coming from a man who has sought long and hard. And successfully if experiences of the divine count.
From my perspective there is a downside. He lives in and teaches a theology and life perspective that came into the church centuries after the message of Jesus. A large part of Mr. Resman’s perspective is what I learned in my grade school catechism and was still normative in the seminary classes during my post graduate training.
This perspective was given a huge push by Saint Augustine in the late second and early third Century. It is that of a God who measures with an exacting standard, expects much and is prepared to punish the person who does little. Mr. Resman lives and teaches the value and actions of a difficult, demanding life. There is a straining in this that I wish were not there. An unnecessary busyness. Tension. Demand. (Resman does stop short of threatening eternal punishment. He is a kind man.)
You may disagree with me on the level of tension in the text and/or on the level of tension useful in the spiritual life. If so you will find more sections of the book applicable to your learning than do I. Medieval saints with their tortured histories to the contrary, I believe that living without the strain very possible, perhaps even necessary to the contemplative life.
My argument is that I am simply following Jesus. In his parable of the prodigal son, the son messes up badly. His father did not notice. Instead of punishment for his son’s failings, the father held a party to celebrate his son’s return. After all, it was his kid.
As are we.
I value the book. Appreciate his willingness to lay his self on the line. I hope many others will come clean on their experiences and that those who do will be received with respect and care. I think the atmosphere of reluctant humility that prevents open speech unfortunate. We all gain the more we know.
I suspect it takes even more humility to lay it all on the table and risk the response.
Thank you, Michael.