Friday, 15 February 2008

Review: The Inner Life by Thomas a Kempis

The Inner Life
This is the second book I (randomly) picked to read out of the Penguin Great Ideas Series. It's number 4 in the list and part of series one (the red series).

Thomas a Kempis and I were never going to see completely eye to eye. He was a deeply religious Renaissance Catholic monk and I am... not. Ultimately I found Kempis' exhortations to renounce all worldly life for quiet religious devotion irrelevant and repetitive. (Particularly the repetitve). This is perhaps uncharitable; apparently 'The Inner Life' is actually an excerpt of Kempis' more well-known text 'The Imitation of Christ" (see reviews at Amazon for more info). Perhaps the whole book would be more satisfying - it was never meant to be a literary masterpiece, but a text to offer religious instruction to monks. However, I'm not religious, not looking to devote my life to Christ, and therefore not going to read the extended version.

In its favour, some of Kempis' views (that we should not worry about gossip, arguments, and what other people say about you or what they do) do have an appealing zen-like quality and are probably an ideal that is worth aiming for. Like Marco Polo before it, this has been disappointing as it is not a complete book in itself. I'm hoping that my next (random) choice will be a full text and a great idea.

1 comment:

Eddie Bryan said...

Yes, there is a lot in what you say but I think it is helpful that a student of yoga, or the BE HERE NOW path, as I should like to call it visit with this book a bit.
Thomas renunciation is a bit overwhelming, it's true but then it was written so long ago. I do appreciate his admonition against fault finding stating that we should never see ourselves as better than others. That's right at the beginning of this book. I have still a lot to read and have turned to other texts as I agree with you that quite a lot is being asked here and not being Catholic, it is distant to me.
I bought the book at Books-A-Million which is far short on books of yoga, the east and alternative texts.
In terms of Christian books that you may be looking for if you have taken some time with Thhomas A Kempis, you might like to look into a text called The Urantia Book. It is a compilation of papers said to have been written paranormally, if that's a word. They are said to have "appeared" on blank paper left in a safe in Chicago at the behest of some psychic. I learned of this so long ago I hardly remember the totality of the tale. It was the 20's though I have read though, in the book that the papers were "indited" in 1934. There are almost 2000 pages of these "papers," which include 4 great subjects, God, the universe, our planet and the life and teachings of Jesus. A concordex by one Clyde Bedell mentions to read the 4th part, the Life and Teachings of Jesus, first. That may be of some help to you as it was to me.